Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Affective Feedback from Computers and Its Effect on Perceived Ability and Affect: A Test of the Computers as Social Actor Hypothesis

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Affective Feedback from Computers and Its Effect on Perceived Ability and Affect: A Test of the Computers as Social Actor Hypothesis

Article excerpt

We report an experimental study that examined two questions: (a) The effect of affective feedback from computers on participants' motivation and self-perception of ability; and (b) whether people respond similarly to computer feedback as they do to human feedback. This study, framed within the Computers As Social Actors (CASA) framework, essentially replicated a prior study on human-human interaction (Meyer, Mittag, & Engler, 1986) except that human evaluators were replaced with computer evaluators. The Meyer et al. study showed that there was a paradoxical relationship between praise and blame feedback and students perception of ability and motivation to engage in a task. Results of our study indicate that, consistent with the CASA hypothesis, people do respond to praise and blame feedback when provided by a computer. However, there are important differences between the results of our study and the Meyer et al. study. The participants in our study took the feedback from the computer at "face value" and seemed unwilling to commit to the same level of "deep psychological processing" about intentionality as they appeared to do with human respondents. We believe that this research combining existing theory and research on motivation and human computer interaction offers significant implications for the design of educational technology and also points to directions for future research. Praise, like penicillin, must not be administered haphazardly. There are rules and cautions that govern the handling of potent medicines--rules about timing and dosage, cautions about possible allergic reactions. There are similar regulations about the administration of emotional medicine (Ginott, 1965, p. 39).


Does praise by a teacher always have a positive impact on student achievement and motivation? Correspondingly, does criticism always have a negative effect on students' feelings of self-efficacy? Educational researchers have built an impressive body of empirical and theoretical knowledge in answering questions such as these (Graham, 1991; Stipek, 1993, 1996; Weary, Stanley, & Harvey, 1989, see Henderlong & Lepper, 2002 for a good review of research). Research exploring achievement motivation has generated a great deal of practical knowledge about how instructional practices affect student motivation. Though the findings of attribution research are of no surprise to researchers and practicing educators, they have not received a similar level of attention from designers and scholars of educational technology (Pridemore & Klein, 1991; Schurick, Williges, & Maynard, 1985).


There are many reasons why designers of educational technology systems have not paid much attention to the nature and effects of affective feedback on students motivation and affect. The design of feedback of educational technology systems is often based on the simplistic (and as we indicated earlier, erroneous) framework where praise is assumed to affect behavior in a specific way when contingent upon performance. This naive belief that praise strengthens the probability of a particular behavior has been called the "perspective of reinforcement" (Henderlong & Lepper, 2002). In pragmatic terms this means that criticism is rarely if ever considered as being of any value in the design of educational technology systems. Designers are often worried that blame or criticism may have a negative effect on students' self-perception of ability or motivation. Finally, from a pragmatic point of view, offering praise (in the form of audio, textual, or other forms of feedback) is easily designed into the system.

Part of the reason for this may also be that most research in the area of educational technology has emphasized the cognitive and information processing aspects of learning where computers are viewed as being neutral cognitive tools that sidestep issues of attitudes and stereotypes typical of human interactions (Lajoie & Derry, 1993). …

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