Researchers conducted a recent study shedding light on how people perceive messages generated with the assistance of interpersonal communication when friends exchange them. The findings suggest that individuals often view messages created with AI as less sincere and effortful compared to messages crafted solely by a human friend. This perception has significant implications for the dynamics and satisfaction within friendships.
The Study and its Participants
Bingjie Liu, an assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University, led the study, which engaged 208 adult participants in online interactions. Participants imagined themselves as long-standing friends with an individual named Taylor and encountered three different scenarios: seeking support during a period of burnout, seeking advice for a conflict with a colleague, or anticipating an upcoming birthday.
In each scenario, participants composed a brief message to Taylor explaining their current situation. Taylor responded to each participant with a thoughtful message. However, the key difference lay in how Taylor’s response was presented:
AI Assistance scenario, participants were informed that Taylor received assistance from an AI system in revising the response.
Human Assistance scenario, participants were told that a member of an online writing community assisted Taylor in revising the response.
No Assistance scenario, participants believed that Taylor made all edits to the response independently.
Despite the consistency in the responses’ overall quality and thoughtfulness, participants’ perceptions varied significantly based on how Taylor’s message was created.
Participants who received a response from Taylor that had been aided by AI or another human viewed the message as less appropriate and less suitable than those who received a message composed solely by Taylor.
This finding suggests that AI’s involvement in crafting a message had a negative impact on how the message was perceived, with similar effects observed when human assistance was involved.
Diminished Satisfaction and Increased Uncertainty
Additionally, the study revealed that AI-generated responses led participants to express lower satisfaction with their relationship with Taylor, particularly in terms of Taylor’s ability to meet their needs as a close friend. Participants who received AI-aided responses also reported increased uncertainty about the status of their friendship, expressing doubts about whether Taylor genuinely liked them as a close friend.
One key factor contributing to these negative perceptions was the perceived lack of effort. Participants felt that Taylor expended less effort in maintaining their friendship when AI or another person was involved in crafting the message. This perception of reduced effort had a direct correlation with decreased satisfaction and increased uncertainty regarding the friendship.
Implications for AI in Interpersonal Communication
As AI chatbots and similar technologies become more prevalent in everyday communication, questions about their role in personal relationships are likely to become increasingly relevant and complex. This study highlights the importance of authenticity and effort in maintaining strong friendships and suggests that people prefer their friends to invest genuine effort in crafting personal messages without relying on AI or external assistance.
Conclusion: The Human Touch Matters
In conclusion, while AI can assist in various aspects of our lives, this study underscores the enduring value of sincerity and authenticity in interpersonal communication. As technology continues to evolve, it remains crucial for individuals to recognize the importance of putting in the effort to maintain meaningful relationships. Ultimately, the study suggests that the human touch, devoid of shortcuts facilitated by technology, remains a fundamental element of genuine friendships.