Keywords: conversational agents, emotion expression, abusive user behavior
The negative consequences of abusive user behavior towards (female) conversational agents (CAs) are widely discussed. This online experiment (N = 195) examined the impact of observing such behavior and related emotional expressions by CAs using light to foster observers' empathy towards CAs. We therefore used four different emotion expressions (neutral, joy, anger, sorrow) and two contrary user reactions to a misunderstanding (forgiving, abusive). Participants observed an interaction between Alexa and a user and evaluated the emotional state and perception of Alexa. Results indicate that abusive behavior cause a more negative perception of CAs and emotion expression via light can evoke empathetic reactions. This was stronger for negative emotions and when a congruent interaction context was present. Evoking empathy in the user via emotion expression is a potential solution to inhibit abusive behavior without using submissive verbal expressions that could be problematic in terms of gender stereotypes.