Pedagogical Agent Appearance & Stereotypes
I have a new publication out that deals with the degree to which students stereotype virtual characters (short answer: yes they do and this behavior influences learning processes, but sometimes they resist. Or, they say that they resist. It’s a bit more complex than that, but the results present an interesting thinking exercise). This one has been “in the works” for more than a couple of years, but it’s recently been updated because interest on the topic seems to be growing.
Veletsianos, G. (2010). Contextually relevant pedagogical agents: Visual appearance, stereotypes, and first impressions and their impact on learning. Computers & Education, 55(2), 576-585. [pre-print PDF]
Abstract: Humans draw on their stereotypic beliefs to make assumptions about others. Even though prior research has shown that individuals respond socially to media, there is little evidence with regards to learners stereotyping and categorizing pedagogical agents. This study investigated whether learners stereotype a pedagogical agent as being knowledgeable or not knowledgeable and how this acuity influenced learning. Participants were assigned to four experimental conditions differing by agent (scientist or artist) and tutorial type (nanotechnology or punk rock). Quantitative analyses indicated that agents were stereotyped depending on their image and the academic domain under which they functioned. Regardless of tutorial, participants assigned to the artist agent recalled more information than participants assigned to the scientist agent. Learning differences between the groups varied according to whether agent appearance fit the content area under investigation. Qualitative results indicated learner’s stereotypic expectations as well as their unwillingness to draw conclusions based on visual appearance.