9/16 “Affective responses to system messages in human–computer-interaction: Effects of modality and message type” – Andreas Tsiaras

Humans have many different ways of communicating face to face. When conversing with someone, your body language and the way you say something, along with what you say, are crucial when talking to someone in person. When it comes to computers, they’ve always understood it as a strict textual language.


In “Affective responses to system messages in human–computer-interaction: Effects of modality and message type,” Hans-Rüdiger Pfister, Sabine Wollstädter and Christian Peter argue that affective and emotional responses can differ based on the type of message sent, and that spoken messages end up having a more positive affect than written messages.


The experiment they conducted to prove this argument was by using three kinds of system messages that could be used to get an emotional reaction of some sorts with 54 individuals who had particpated. These three system messages were input requests, status notifications, and error messages. They presented these messages in different ways. Some were presented visually as text, acoustically with speech, or were presented either alone or in conjunction with an icon or sound. Based on different system messages some participants felt physiological changes in heart rate, skin conductance, and change in skin temperature. There were also subjective affective responses such as valence, arousal, and dominance. With this, I believe Pfister, Wollstäder and Peter’s argument stands.


Putting this into a personal perspective, it was easy to understand the feelings of the participants with some of the messages received. When receiving certain error messages on my own, they can evoke feelings of panic (where my skin temperature rises) if I don’t know how the error is caused. My reactions to messages like this have gone unnoticed for quite some time so it was great reading a report that made me reflect on how I react and feel to certain messages.

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