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Reactance to humans versus Artificial Intelligence

Prof. Dr. Anne Scherer shares her research at CHM Seminar for Humans and Machines.

People increasingly receive information from artificial agents, such as robo-advisors and artificial intelligence, be it on retirement planning, health insurance or social benefits. Sometimes, this information is negative and undesirable for the person receiving it. Little research has examined the interplay of who is giving the information and what information is provided. Across four experiments and one field study, the research team shows that people accept desirable information more readily than undesirable information when the source is a human agent, while they are equally accepting of both when the source is an artificial agent. Drawing from reactance theory, they show that these differences arise because threatening information arouses less reactance when provided by a non-social rather than a social source, which, in turn, reduces reactance-style responses. These results have important implications for organizations in the public and private sector that need to confront people with information they may not like to hear.


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