Female AI ‘companion’ boosts women’s engagement

by Khushi Srivastava
female ai

According to new Cornell University research, having an artificial intelligence-powered virtual partner with a female voice increases women’s involvement and productivity on male-dominated teams. According to the researchers, the gender of an AI’s voice can positively influence the dynamics of gender-imbalanced teams and may assist inspire the design of bots employed for human-AI teaming.

The findings are consistent with prior research, which has shown that minority teammates are more inclined to participate when the team includes members who are similar to them, according to Angel Hsing-Chi Hwang, postdoctoral associate in information science and lead author of the publication.

To better understand how AI can help gender-imbalanced teams, Hwang and Andrea Stevenson Won, associate professor of communication and co-author of the paper, conducted an experiment with approximately 180 men and women who were divided into groups of three and asked to collaborate virtually on a set of tasks.

Each group had one woman or one man, as well as a fourth agent in the form of an abstract shape with a male or female voice, who appeared on screen to read orders, contribute ideas, and maintain time. There was a catch: the bot wasn’t entirely automated. Hwang worked behind the scenes in a “Wizard of Oz” experiment for human-computer interaction, feeding lines generated by ChatGPT into the bot.

Following the experiment, Hwang and Won examined the chat logs of team talks to see how frequently participants proposed ideas or arguments. They also asked the participants to reflect on their experience.

“When we looked at participants’ actual behaviors, that’s where we started to see differences between men and women and how they were reacting when there was either a female agent or a male agent on the team,” she explained.

“One interesting thing about this study is that most participants didn’t express a preference for a male- or female-sounding voice,” Won stated. “This implies that people’s social inferences about AI can be influential even when people don’t believe they are important.”

Researchers discovered that women in the minority contributed more when the AI’s voice sounded female, whereas men in the minority were more talkative but less focused on tasks when dealing with a male-sounding bot. According to the researchers, when women were the minority members, they had considerably more positive opinions of their AI partner than males did.

“With only a gendered voice, the AI agent can provide a small degree of support to women minority members in a group,” Hwang stated.

Reference – Female AI ‘teammate’ generates more participation from women

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