Gendering the machine: preferred virtual assistant gender and realism in self-service

Jeunese A. Payne, Andrea Szymkowiak, Paul Robertson, Graham I. Johnson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

18 Citations (Scopus)


A virtual agent is a human-like character that is designed to assist users in interactions with technology and virtual worlds. Research into the preferred visual characteristics of a virtual agent has focused on education-based agents, gaming avatars, and online help assistants. However, findings from these studies are not necessarily generalizable to other technologies, such as self-service checkouts (SSCO). This paper describes data from 578 participants, looking at the gender preferences of Virtual Assistants (VA) in a SSCO context and the impact of VA realism depending on user gender. Due to female participants’ preference for female VAs, and an overall preference for three-dimensional characters, a realistic, female VA should be used in SSCO. The results are discussed in terms of similarity-attraction theory and social role theory.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntelligent Virtual Agents
Subtitle of host publication13th International Conference, IVA 2013 Edinburgh, UK, August 29-31, 2013: proceedings
EditorsRuth Aylett, Brigitte Krenn, Catherine Pelachaud, Hiroshi Shimodaira
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9783642404153
ISBN (Print)9783642404146
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event13th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Aug 201331 Aug 2013
Conference number: 13th

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference13th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents
Abbreviated titleIVA 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Gender
  • Selfservice
  • Psychology
  • Preference
  • Interface agent
  • Virtual assistant
  • Visual realism


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