. Scientific Frontline: Smart but stressful

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Smart but stressful

Intelligent personal assistants accompany people worldwide every day.
Credit: RUB, Kramer
Intelligent personal assistants make everyday work easier. If you use them intensively and over a longer period of time, they can also create stress.

Siri, delete the light! Alexa, what does the weather forecast say? Nowadays, so-called intelligent personal assistants such as loudspeakers with speech recognition are hard to imagine in our everyday life. But do they only have a positive effect on us? What does the long-term human-assistant relationship look like?? Prof. also asked himself these questions. Dr. Sascha Alavi, chair holder at the Sales Management Department of RUB, and his research colleagues Prof. Dr. Valéry Bezençon and Ertuğrul Uysal from the University of Neuchâtel. In their joint study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, economists show that personal assistance systems can also have damaging effects on users in the long term.

“Previous studies have primarily and exclusively dealt with the advantages of intelligent assistance systems, highlighted their benefits for the world of work, for companies, especially from a commercial point of view. We were also interested in the potentially damaging consequences for consumers,” reports Alavi. To this end, he carried out surveys with his colleagues with more than 1,000 users of intelligent language assistants as well as qualitative in-depth interviews with eleven users.

Intensive use can affect well-being

The survey found that users of intelligent personal assistants attribute an almost human mind to them. This attribution enables them to enter into a personal relationship with the devices, evaluate them positively, and trust them. "Our study results initially confirm a very positive effect of the human-technology relationship," says Alavi. On the other hand, the research team was able to prove for the first time that attributing human properties to technology can have negative effects.

"30 percent of users feel threatened."
Sascha Alavi

“According to our study, about 30 percent of users sometimes feel threatened by the systems in their identity. They perceive the assistants as rivals. They worry about their independence, see their privacy in danger,” explains Alavi.

Honeymoon effect

These damaging effects would occur particularly frequently if there was already a close, long relationship between humans and the assistance system. “There are no problems in the first eight months. One could speak of a 'honeymoon effect',” said Alavi. Then use the stressful effect. "In about 20 percent of consumers, the intensive use of Artificial Intelligence Assistants (AIA) affects their well-being over a period of eight months," summarizes Alavi. The main reason for the stress is that people would worry that such technologies could one day replace them. "It is now a very present danger in the world of work," says the economist.

Strategies for protection

In their study, the researchers also identified three ways of preventing the damaging long-term effects, fear of loss of identity and stress. To do this, they tested three possible strategies in a field experiment. “We saw that the harmful effects did not occur as much when users had informed themselves in advance about the data protection practices of the assistance systems, they knew how to change the settings and also when asked to take precautions to protect them of their data ”, summarizes Alavi. Therefore, the team recommends that the marketing management of AIA companies provide more information on data protection in the future, better and more transparent information for consumers.

Original publication
Ertugrul Uysal, Sascha Alavi, Valéry Bezençon: Trojan horse or useful helper? A relationship perspective on artificial intelligence assistants with humanlike features, in: Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

Source/Credit: Ruhr University Bochum


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