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Social chatbots and their impact on neurodiverse people

Date:
December 11, 2023
Source:
University of South Australia
Summary:
New research shows that social chatbots could be doing more harm than good for neurodiverse people, entrenching social isolation and reinforcing dysfunctional habits among many people with autism, anxiety and limited social skills.
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Australian researchers have flagged potential concerns over the use of social chatbots, calling for more studies into the impact of the AI software on neurodiverse people and those who find human interaction difficult.

While the AI chatbot is appealing to many people who struggle with face-to-face conversations, the technology may foster bad habits that could lead to further social isolation.

That's the view of University of South Australia and Flinders University researchers in a recent essay published in the Journal of Behavioural Addictions.

The researchers say that chatbots, now integrated into social networking platforms like Snapchat, could perpetuate communication difficulties for people with autism, anxiety and limited social skills.

Lead researcher, UniSA Psychology Honours student Andrew Franze, says the rapid development of social chatbots has pros and cons which need investigating.

"Young people with social deficiencies tend to gravitate towards companionship with online social chatbots in particular," Franze says.

"They offer a safe means of rehearsing social interaction with limited or no risk of negative judgement based on appearance or communication style. However, there is a risk they can become dependent on chatbots and withdraw even further from human interactions."

Franze says the inability of chatbots to have a real "conversation," or display empathy and soft emotional skills, can reinforce dysfunctional habits in many neurodiverse people.

"Some chatbots have a generally servile quality and so there is no resistance or opposing view that characterises human conversations. This means that users can control the conversation completely; they can pause it, delay it, or even terminate the conversation. All of this is counterproductive to developing appropriate social skills in the real world."

And while social chatbots may relieve social anxiety, this relief may develop into a form of dependency that negatively impacts on actual relationships.

The researchers say that industry-linked research has promoted the benefits of commercial chatbot applications, but feedback from parents, family members, teachers and therapists is needed to gain a broader understanding of its impacts.

"We need to gather evidence about the myriad of ways that these technologies can influence vulnerable users who may be particularly drawn to them," Franze says. "Only then can we develop policies and industry practices that guide the responsible and safe use of chatbots."

"Social chatbot user (e.g., ChatGPT) among individuals with social deficits: risks and opportunities" is published in the Journal of Behavioural Addictions. It is authored by Andrew Franze (University of South Australia); Christina R. Galanis and Daniel L. King (Flinders University).


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of South Australia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew Franze, Christina R. Galanis, Daniel L. King. Social chatbot use (e.g., ChatGPT) among individuals with social deficits: Risks and opportunities. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 2023; DOI: 10.1556/2006.2023.00057

Cite This Page:

University of South Australia. "Social chatbots and their impact on neurodiverse people." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/12/231211114639.htm>.
University of South Australia. (2023, December 11). Social chatbots and their impact on neurodiverse people. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/12/231211114639.htm
University of South Australia. "Social chatbots and their impact on neurodiverse people." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/12/231211114639.htm (accessed March 2, 2024).

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