Title: Users’ Affective Communication with Virtual Humans in Counseling Interview Interactions
Speaker: Sin-Hwa Kang, Ph.D. at USC ICT, USA
In this talk, I will be presenting my research that have been investigating a main facet of counseling effect and social connection based on users’ affective communication with a virtual human. In my studies I specifically look at the emotional and (non)verbal factors and the ability of the communication medium to produce a sense of social (co)presence between a virtual counselor and a human client in counseling interview interactions. I hypothesize that the users’ perception of the amount of social (co)presence with their interaction partner (e.g. virtual counselors) is positively correlated with the degree of self-disclosure they exhibit. Thus, a higher level of perceived social (co)presence will enhance the client’s engagement as well as the amount of their self-disclosure through an increased socio-emotional connection with the counselor. To provide theoretical bases for the hypotheses, the studies explore human-computer interaction, communication, and social psychology related theories that allow us to investigate methods to facilitate the engagement of human clients and promote their self-disclosure in counseling interview interactions. In order to investigate users’ social (co)presence with virtual counselors, I explore the degrees of intimacy present in self-disclosure, the variations of back stories utilized by the virtual counselor, and the nonverbal behavior displayed by the user. I’m also investigating the clients’ social desirability bias, or the extent to which people alter their behaviors to maintain a positive image in the eyes of the other person. This added dimension would serve as an indicator of human clients’ lying when the clients interact with the virtual counselors. In addition, I’ll briefly introduce my previous and future work on mobile applications in socio-emotional and psychotherapeutic interactions.
I am a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. I'm currently working for the Medical Virtual Reality (MedVR) Group and previously worked for the Computational Emotion Group before joining the MedVR Group. My research focuses on affective human-agent interaction in social and psychotherapeutic interactions. I adopt interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches to my research, specifically in social and clinical psychological contexts. I have been participating in National Science Foundation funded projects where I work on modeling a novel approach to explore interactants' perceptions of copresence and the medium itself, including the adoption of virtual humans over emotionally engaged and computer-mediated interaction. I am currently doing research on investigating virtual humans as virtual counselors and appeared in The New York Times with my work (“In Cybertherapy, Avatars Assist With Healing”). I received the "New Investigator Award" for a presentation of outstanding research quality at the CyberTherapy & CyberPsychology 2011 conference. I obtained a M.Sc. from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia and a Ph.D. from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, majoring in Communication with concentration in Human-Computer Interaction. Before coming to the US, I worked in industry, researching and developing web applications for online communities, marketing, and industrial training in Seoul, Korea where I earned my bachelor's degree from Ewha Woman's University.