Mirages: On anthropomorphism in dialogue systems

Gavin Abercrombie, Amanda Cercas Curry, Tanvi Dinkar, Verena Rieser, Zeerak Talat

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Automated dialogue or conversational systems are anthropomorphised by developers and personified by users. While a degree of anthropomorphism is inevitable, conscious and unconscious design choices can guide users to personify them to varying degrees. Encouraging users to relate to automated systems as if they were human can lead to transparency and trust issues, and high risk scenarios caused by over-reliance on their outputs. As a result, natural language processing researchers have investigated the factors that induce personification and develop resources to mitigate such effects. However, these efforts are fragmented, and many aspects of anthropomorphism have yet to be explored. In this paper, we discuss the linguistic factors that contribute to the anthropomorphism of dialogue systems and the harms that can arise thereof, including reinforcing gender stereotypes and conceptions of acceptable language. We recommend that future efforts towards developing dialogue systems take particular care in their design, development, release, and description; and attend to the many linguistic cues that can elicit personification by users.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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