PhD Defence | How are you feeling, human?

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam PhD candidate, Lenin da Nóbrega Medeiros will be defending his PhD thesis “How are you feeling, human? Towards emotionally supportive chatbots” on Wednesday 23rd September.

Lenin Medeiros’s thesis explores the potential use of intelligent virtual assistants in helping online social network users cope with personal stressful situations. Medeiros completed his research under the supervision of Jan Treur, Charlotte Gerritsen (both from VU Amsterdam) and Tibor Bosse (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen).

Humans and virtual agents are tightening their social ties day by day. Currently, chatbots are being widely used in customer relationship management for online shopping among other domains. In parallel, mental healthcare applications for virtual agents are being investigated by scientists as pieces of software can be available all the time, don’t get tired and don’t absorb negative emotion.

In this thesis, Medeiros completed a full research cycle in which computational modelling was implemented to understand the process of humans and virtual entities providing emotional support to stressed real peers, followed by an investigation that made use of real social network data that was analysed and led to an algorithm able to generate supportive messages tailored to stressors. Finally, a Facebook Messenger chatbot using such an algorithm was used in an experiment with dozens of real participants that seemed to have their valence levels increased after interacting with the proposed agent.

Watch the PhD defence live via YouTube.