Social Interactions with Autonomous Agents: Team Perception and Team Development Improve Teamwork Outcomes

James C. Walliser

Advisor: Tyler H. Shaw, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Eva Weise, Ewart de Visser

David J. King Hall, CENTEC Conference Room
May 03, 2017, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM


Among groups of humans, the team structure has been argued to be the most effective way for people to organize to accomplish work (Groom & Nass, 2007). Research suggests that humans and autonomous agents can be more effective when working together (Marble Bruemmer, Few, & Dudenhoeffer, 2004). However, the drive toward capable autonomous teammates has focused on design characteristics while ignoring the importance of social interactions between teammates. Two experiments were performed to study how the perception of teamwork and the application of team building interventions could enhance teamwork outcomes in the form of affect, behavior, and performance. A team structure alone resulted in improved affect and behaviors relative to a tool structure. However, team structure did not lead to significant performance differences. In the second study, participants completed goal setting and role clarification, two forms of team building, with their teammate prior to task performance. The team building interventions led to significant improvements for all three teamwork outcomes. In both studies, participants communicated with human partners differently than they did with autonomous partners. These findings suggest that social interactions between humans and autonomous teammates should be an important design consideration. Particular attention should be given to team building. Further research should explore team training, another form of team development, which may be useful for improving communication between humans and autonomous agents.