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The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places

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Can human beings relate to computer or television programs in the same way they relate to other human beings? Based on numerous psychological studies, this book concludes that people not only can but do treat computers, televisions, and new media as real people and places. Studies demonstrate that people are "polite" to computers; that they treat computers with female voic Can human beings relate to computer or television programs in the same way they relate to other human beings? Based on numerous psychological studies, this book concludes that people not only can but do treat computers, televisions, and new media as real people and places. Studies demonstrate that people are "polite" to computers; that they treat computers with female voices differently than "male" ones; that large faces on a screen can invade our personal space; and that on-screen and real-life motion can provoke the same physical responses. Using everyday language to engage readers interested in psychology, communication, and computer technology, Reeves and Nass detail how this knowledge can help in designing a wide range of media.


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Can human beings relate to computer or television programs in the same way they relate to other human beings? Based on numerous psychological studies, this book concludes that people not only can but do treat computers, televisions, and new media as real people and places. Studies demonstrate that people are "polite" to computers; that they treat computers with female voic Can human beings relate to computer or television programs in the same way they relate to other human beings? Based on numerous psychological studies, this book concludes that people not only can but do treat computers, televisions, and new media as real people and places. Studies demonstrate that people are "polite" to computers; that they treat computers with female voices differently than "male" ones; that large faces on a screen can invade our personal space; and that on-screen and real-life motion can provoke the same physical responses. Using everyday language to engage readers interested in psychology, communication, and computer technology, Reeves and Nass detail how this knowledge can help in designing a wide range of media.

30 review for The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places

  1. 5 out of 5

    Zimran Ahmed

    Interesting information. Presented in a ponderous, academic style that puts the answer last.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Harris

    The concept of this book is a simple question: Media = Reality? As the title describes, these researchers set out to examine whether computers, televisions, and other media follow the same social and natural rules as humans. The findings were interesting, such as how a masculine voice from a computer is responded to in the same way as a masculine voice coming from a human, or how people respond to visual stimuli on a computer screen similarly to if the object were really present. When I had this The concept of this book is a simple question: Media = Reality? As the title describes, these researchers set out to examine whether computers, televisions, and other media follow the same social and natural rules as humans. The findings were interesting, such as how a masculine voice from a computer is responded to in the same way as a masculine voice coming from a human, or how people respond to visual stimuli on a computer screen similarly to if the object were really present. When I had this book recommended to me, my friend told me to read the introduction and just skip around to the chapters that I thought would be interesting. Unfortunately, I'm incapable of starting a book without reading cover to cover. I would give the same advice my friend gave me, as that would keep the book interesting without seeming repetitive or drawn out. That said, it has an interesting premise and some great insights not only about media, but social constructs as well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    To be honest, comparing the inanimate "media" to humans in terms of psychology and social interactions may not be the most interesting topic to read about. What makes this book a real treat however is the clear structure and the comprehensive, methodical and analytical style in which the experiments and conclusions thereof are presented.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kamil Rudnicki

    Very nice book that shows we treat media and computer interfaces as real people. That we do this automatically even if we know it is fiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This marvelous little academic book describes the results of studies the authors did that determined -- wait for it -- that people treat computers, TV and other electronic media as if they were human. In other words, we're polite to computers when we address them directly, and less polite when we're talking about them behind their backs. The whole idea seems obvious when you think about it for more than 5 minutes, but I'm sure it didn't when the authors set out to study the matter, and anyway th This marvelous little academic book describes the results of studies the authors did that determined -- wait for it -- that people treat computers, TV and other electronic media as if they were human. In other words, we're polite to computers when we address them directly, and less polite when we're talking about them behind their backs. The whole idea seems obvious when you think about it for more than 5 minutes, but I'm sure it didn't when the authors set out to study the matter, and anyway the studies tell you how and why. And it is interesting. But I think the material could have filled one very respectable article in, say, Psychology Today. Nonetheless, this is a seminal work in our understanding of how we related to machines, and illuminates (without directly addressing it) a larger issue of how our brains work: we attach emotions to memories (images) in our brains in order to remember things. The stronger the emotions, the stronger the memory. So it's not really that we're personalizing TVs; rather, we emotionalize everything. This insights comes thanks to recent brain research -- after this book was written -- so the authors can't be blamed for only getting a piece of the picture. The larger point (that we emotionalize everything) has a thousand implications for all sorts of fields and common-sense misconceptions, such as testimony in law, education, politics, and so on, but most of the implications are so surprising that experts in those fields have so far resisted bringing them into their thinking.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Interesting material, but repetitive and mind-numbing presentation. Basically, each chapter follows the same structure - question, equivalent social psych experiment, our experiment design, results and discussion. The bottom line is yes, people do treat media like they do people, probably because our brain is only evolved to deal with other living beings and therefore treat everything like living beings. However, some of the experiments are strange, and would be hard to find corollaries in real Interesting material, but repetitive and mind-numbing presentation. Basically, each chapter follows the same structure - question, equivalent social psych experiment, our experiment design, results and discussion. The bottom line is yes, people do treat media like they do people, probably because our brain is only evolved to deal with other living beings and therefore treat everything like living beings. However, some of the experiments are strange, and would be hard to find corollaries in real software. For example, there were several experiments asking whether computers were liked more depending on whether they praised themselves/other computers/were praised by other computers. I cannot think of even a single piece of software that had any use for anything like that. It would probably be useful to go through and summarize the main findings, since actually reading through the book was a chore. The material is presented like a series of research papers, rather than being written to please an audience who just wants to know the results. As such, many of the findings are simply “as we [the researchers] expected”, with no real pizazz or drama.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    People know computers are not social beings, and say they know. Still, experiments show they treat computers (and other media like movies) as if they were real social beings. This book does a good job of describing their hypotheses clearly (e.g., "People will believe that they did better on a task when they are flattered by a computer than when the computer doesn't give any evaluation."), and the experiments they conducted to test the hypotheses.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Ma

    Potentially more useful to the proverbial Martian anthropologist, the interesting bits of this study were found among unfortunately increasingly dull case studies. Nevertheless this is an important topic and the authors explore it fairly comprehensively.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    Really cool insights about human brains and how we interpret media. Highly recommended for anyone interested media study and psychology.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rémi Barraquand

    Amazing!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shuhan_crystal

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stella Lee

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leon

  14. 4 out of 5

    종헌 이

  15. 5 out of 5

    Macy Cellitti

  16. 5 out of 5

    an.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jens Jonason

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maryann Morabito

  19. 4 out of 5

    Don

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gary Lang

  22. 4 out of 5

    E

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Orban

  24. 5 out of 5

    apoxie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sam Flowers

  26. 5 out of 5

    April Pufahl

  27. 4 out of 5

    Evan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike Gonzales

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marc Resnick

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jaireh

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