PhD Seminar • Human-Computer Interaction — Can a Humorous Conversational Agent Enhance Learning Experience and Outcomes?

Friday, April 16, 2021 1:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Please note: This PhD seminar will be given online.

Jessy Ceha, PhD candidate
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science

Supervisor: Professor Edith Law

Previous studies have highlighted the benefits of pedagogical conversational agents using socially-oriented conversation with students. In this work, we examine the effects of a conversational agent’s use of affiliative and self-defeating humour — considered conducive to social well-being and enhancing interpersonal relationships — on learners’ perception of the agent and attitudes towards the task. Using a between-subjects protocol, 58 participants taught a conversational agent about rock classification using a learning-by-teaching platform, the Curiosity Notebook. While all agents were curious and enthusiastic, the style of humour was manipulated such that the agent either expressed an affiliative style, a self-defeating style, or no humour. Results demonstrate that affiliative humour can significantly increase motivation and effort, while self-defeating humour, although enhancing effort, negatively impacts enjoyment. Findings further highlight the importance of understanding learner characteristics when using humour.

To join this PhD seminar on Zoom, please go to