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Journal Article

A bizarre virtual trainer outperforms a human trainer in foreign language word learning


Macedonia,  Manuela
Max Planck Research Group Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department for Information Systems, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria;

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Macedonia, M. (2014). A bizarre virtual trainer outperforms a human trainer in foreign language word learning. International Journal of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, 4(2), 24-34. doi:10.5963/IJCSAI0402001.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-57BA-D
In this study, the effects that a human trainer and a pedagogical virtual agent have on the memory for words in a foreign language (L2) were investigated. In a recent study on L2 word learning, Bergmann and Macedonia (2013) cued participants to memorize novel words both audiovisually and by performing additional gestures. The gestures were performed by both a human and a virtual trainer. In some of the tests, the virtual agent had a greater positive influence on memory performance than the human trainer. In order to determine why the agent was a better trainer than the human, 18 naive subjects were invited to rate the gestures performed by both trainers. Furthermore, participants were asked to evaluate their perception of the human and the agent. It was hypothesized that the gestures performed by the agent would be more peculiar than those by the human and possibly attract greater attention. It was also hypothesized that the agent’s personality might be more appealing than that of the human. The results showed that the agent’s gestures were perceived as less natural than those of the human. This might have triggered greater attention and/ or more emotional involvement of the participants. The perception of both trainers as “personalities” did not differ, with the exception of a few traits for which the human trainer was considered to be better. Altogether, because of the peculiar gestures it made and because of its looks, the agent may have been perceived as bizarre. Therefore, he might have induced the bizarreness effect in the memory for words.