Happy Ones Sell Products Better

Photo: Baldi in the happy and sad version

Many Web sites feature digital human-like characters. These digital humans can help put a face on Web sites that sell products. Although the characters can “read” text with a certain emotion, such as happy or sad, they can't automatically detect emotion from sentence to sentence with today's technology. And that can affect how well they perform.

The research involved the emotionally expressive character called „Baldi,” an animated human face who can also talk using text-to-speech software. Baldi, created by the Perceptual Science Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, can synchronize its lips perfectly to a passage of text while reading aloud in a way that conveys a specific emotion.

In this study, one sad version of Baldi consistently frowned and sounded sad while reading both sad and happy book reviews for participants. Another happy version always smiled and sounded happy while reading both happy and sad book reviews for other participants. The happy Baldi spoke quickly with a high voice and with more range in pitch while the sad version spoke in a lower, slower tone with little change in pitch.

When it came to having Baldi read reviews, Gong found study participants preferred the happy version compared to the sad talking face, regardless of whether the actual book review was happy or sad. “When a digital character can't pick up emotional cues in text, it's better to be happy, even if the topic or product is sad,“ Gong said.

„Participants said they were more likely to read a book presented by the happy face compared to the sad one,“ Gong said. The participants liked a happy Baldi more, felt it was more competent, and trusted it more than they did a sad version.

Although participants' responses to Baldi were lukewarm overall, Gong believes the happy face's stronger influence is an important finding. „Baldi is a laboratory version that looks quite strange. It's not a customer-friendly version,“ Gong said. „But this fact makes the findings more powerful because people should react more strongly to realistic-looking characters you find on the Internet.“

COMPAMED.de; Source: Ohio State University