The art of designing socially intelligent agents: science, fiction, and the human in the loop

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136 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, socially intelligent agents (SIAs) are understood to be agents that do not only from an observer point of view behave socially but that are able to recognize and identify other agents and establish and maintain relationships to other agents. The process of building SI As is influenced by what the human as the designer considers “social,” and conversely, agent tools that are behaving socially can influence human conceptions of sociality. A cognitive technology (CT) approach toward designing SIAs affords an opportunity to study the process of(1) how new forms of interactions and functionalities and use of technology can emerge at the human-tool interface, (2) how social agents can constrain their cognitive and social potential, and (3) how social agent technology and human (social) cognition can co-evolve and co-adapt and result in new forms of sociality. Agent-human interaction requires a cognitive fit between SI A technology and the human-in-the-loop as designer of, user of and participant in social interactions. Aspects of human social psychology, e.g., storytelling, empathy, embodiment, and historical and ecological grounding, can contribute to a believable and cognitively well-balanced design of SI A technology in order to further the relationship between humans and agent tools. It is hoped that approaches to believability based on these concepts can avoid the “shallowness” that merely takes advantage of the anthropomorphizing tendency in humans. This approach is put into the general framework of Embodied Artificial Life (EAL) research. The article concludes with a terminology and list of guidelines useful for SI A design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-617
Number of pages45
JournalApplied Artificial Intelligence
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1998
Externally publishedYes


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