Effects of adapting to user pitch on rapport perception, behavior, and state with a social robotic learning companion


Social robots such as learning companions, therapeutic assistants, and tour guides are dependent on the challenging task of establishing a rapport with their users. People rarely communicate with just words alone; facial expressions, gaze, gesture, and prosodic cues like tone of voice and speaking rate combine to help individuals express their words and convey emotion. One way that individuals communicate a sense of connection with one another is entrainment, where interaction partners adapt their way of speaking, facial expressions, or gestures to each other; entrainment has been linked to trust, liking, and task success and is thought to be a vital phenomenon in how people build rapport. In this work, we introduce a social robot that combines multiple channels of rapport-building behavior, including forms of social dialog and prosodic entrainment. We explore how social dialog and entrainment contribute to both self-reported and behavioral rapport responses. We find prosodic adaptation enhances perceptions of social dialog, and that social dialog and entrainment combined build rapport. Individual differences indicated by gender mediate these social responses; an individual’s underlying rapport state, as indicated by their verbal rapport behavior, is exhibited and triggered differently depending on gender. These results have important repercussions for assessing and modeling a user’s social responses and designing adaptive social agents.

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This work was supported by the National Robotics Initiative and the National Science Foundation, Grant # CISE-IIS-1637809.

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Rapport Measures: Participants responded on a Likert scale from 1 to 5

I felt I had a connection with Quinn

I felt I was able to engage Quinn

I think that Quinn and I understood each other

I felt that Quinn was interested in what I had to say

I felt that Quinn was warm and caring

I felt that Quinn was intensely involved in the interaction

I felt that Quinn seemed to find the interaction stimulating

I felt that Quinn was respectful to me

I felt that Quinn showed enthusiasm while talking to me

Social Presence Measures: Participants responded on a Likert scale from 1 to 7

Quinn was easily distracted

I was easily distracted

Quinn tended to ignore me

I tended to ignore Quinn

I sometimes pretend to pay attention to Quinn

Quinn sometimes pretended to pay attention to me

Quinn paid close attention to me

Coding Scheme:

Politeness: “P” is polite to Quinn, follows conversational niceties (like saying hello)

  • Ex 1: Thank you, Quinn

  • Ex 2: ah step four please

Complimenting or praising: “P” praises Quinn

  • Ex 1: good job Quinn

  • Ex 2: great! Now I factor out the two

  • Ex 3: nice!

Name usage: “P” uses Quinn’s name

  • Ex 1: Nice job Quinn (this would contain checks in both the praise column and the name column)

Inclusive: “P” includes Quinn, for example by using ‘inclusive’ language such as “us,” “we,”, “together”, “let’s”

  • Ex 1: Let’s do problem one!

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Lubold, N., Walker, E. & Pon-Barry, H. Effects of adapting to user pitch on rapport perception, behavior, and state with a social robotic learning companion. User Model User-Adap Inter (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11257-020-09267-3

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  • Rapport
  • Social robot
  • Pitch
  • Gender
  • Adaptation
  • Social dialog