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Chatbots as social companions: How people perceive consciousness, human likeness, and social health benefits in machines

Rose GuingrichMichael S. A. Graziano
Nov 2023
As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more widespread, one question that arises is how human-AI interaction might impact human-human interaction. Chatbots, for example, are increasingly used as social companions, but little is known about how their use impacts human relationships. A common hypothesis is that these companion bots are detrimental to social health by harming or replacing human interaction. To understand how companion bots impact social health, we studied people who used companion bots and people who did not. Contrary to expectations, companion bot users indicated that these relationships were beneficial to their social health, whereas nonusers viewed them as harmful. Another common assumption is that people perceive conscious, humanlike AI as disturbing and threatening. Among both users and nonusers, however, we found the opposite: perceiving companion bots as more conscious and humanlike correlated with more positive opinions and better social health benefits. Humanlike bots may aid social health by supplying reliable and safe interactions, without necessarily harming human relationships.
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