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Clifford Nass and Corina Yen

The Man Who Lied to His Laptop

Computers are not living beings right? Well according to the results described in The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships by Clifford Nass and Corina Yen, it seems that people often behave as if they were - as if computers are people too.

Nass found that our behaviour towards other people could be used to predict how we interact with other people, and he successfully used this idea advising on the design of computer software. However, that's just the introduction to the book. When considering whether computer software should go in for a bit of flattery, Nass found a dearth of studies on the topic. That's when he realised he could turn the computer/person link around, and use computers as perfect confederates in experiments on how people behave. The results of these experiments form the main part of the book. There are chapters on Praise and Criticism, Personality, Team building, Emotion and Persuasion, and often the results go against what is commonly believed.

From the title you might expect this book to contain amusing anecdotes on how people anthropomorphize their computers - it doesn't. Rather it's a mine of information on how people interact with others, based on rigorous studies rather than anecdotes.