Keywords: Perceived Sociability, Social Presence, Conversational Agents, Aging, Technology Acceptance, Anthropomorphism, Computers are Social Actors
Conversational agents (CAs) are becoming increasingly prevalent and permeating into our daily lives. We conducted a between-subjects design experiment to examine the effects of age and interaction types on the perceptions about social abilities of CAs among 25 older (aged 60 or more) and 26 younger adults. Bridging the Computers are Social Actors paradigm and theories in socioemotional development and technology acceptance, CAs' perceived sociability (i.e., to what extent the CA was perceived as a pleasant conversational partner) and social presence (i.e., to what extent the CA was perceived as a living entity) were gauged by two types of interactions: human-human interaction (wherein the human experimenter interviewed participants) and human-agent interaction (wherein the CA itself interviewed participants). We found that older adults perceived CAs to be more pleasant to interact with when the CA gauged the perceptions than human experimenters. For younger adults, their perceived sociability of CAs did not differ across the types of interactions. Furthermore, the perceived pleasant social experience was associated with technology acceptance of CAs for both younger and older adults. However, social presence of CAs was only critical in the development of technology acceptance for older adults. The age differences in the associations between technology acceptance and perceived social abilities of CAs might be partly because of the tendency to favor positive social experience in our memories with age. Based on these findings, we discussed implications on designing social interactions with CAs, especially for older adults.