"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Dr Catherine Crompton

Doctoral research by 2019-20 Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Catherine Crompton was featured in several national newspapers this week. Her recent paper in Computers in Human Behaviour, co-authored with Dr Sarah E. MacPherson, is titled 'Human agency beliefs affect older adults' interaction behaviours and task performance when learning with computerised partners', and can be found here.

The paper discusses a 'Wizard of Oz' task comparing how older adults aged 60–85 interacted and learned with a system they believed was a human (using natural speech), and with a system they believed was a computer (using synthetic speech). While a learning effect was observed in both conditions, participants took longer to complete the task when they thought they were interacting with a computer, were less accurate in their answers, changed their answers more, and recalled them with less detail after a delay, compared to when they believed they were interacting with a human. Dr Crompton notes, "An increasing number of systems to help older adults live independently depend on computerised activities, although little is known about how people interact with these systems and how they learn from them. These findings suggest that beliefs affect how efficiently older people learn with technology, which could be taken into account when making technology systems user-friendly.”

You can read more about her research in The Scotsman, The Times (£), and The Herald.

At IASH, Dr Crompton is working with autistic teens in school to understand whether peer support programs could provide a useful space for autistic young people to interact, as well as with autistic adults to reflect on the role peer support could have had in their school life, with the aim of co-designing a peer support toolkit for secondary schools.