Are Computers Good or Bad for Business? How Mediated Customer–Computer Interaction Alters Emotions, Impressions, and Patronage toward Organizations


Are computers good or bad for business? Although computers are social actors research finds that people react to computers and humans with similar tendencies, little research directly compares human–computer interaction to human–human interaction. I ask how mediated transactions with a company’s human or computer representatives alter customers’ reactions toward that company. I conduct an experiment where subjects in the role of customers received products (low or high quality) from a representative (human or computer). I measure the customer’s emotions, impressions, and patronage toward both the representative and the organization. The data indicate few differences in reactions toward the representative and the organization, however, customers perceive the organization as more responsible and in control when they have employed human, not computer, representatives. A hypothesized statistical interaction effect (a moderation effect) on several emotions indicates that computer representatives decrease the strength of the relationship between receiving low or high quality products and customer’s emotions. Although many customer reactions indicate no human/computer differences, I discuss how the statistical moderation effect of computer identity on several emotions may relate to computers are social actors and other research.


Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Computers are social actors; Organizations; Human–computer interaction; Customers; Computer mediation; Emotion

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2013 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2013