Using computer automated systems to conduct personal interviews: Does the mere presence of a human face inhibit disclosure?

Author ORCID Identifier

Matthew Pickard:https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4614-0060

Publication Title

Computers in Human Behavior



Document Type



Personal interviews are widely used to collect open-ended data in an array of settings, many of which require solicitation of data that may be regarded as sensitive or threatening by interviewees. The high costs of employing human interviewers can be mitigated by utilizing computer-generated “human-like” interviewers, at least in scripted interview conditions. However, the effects of replacing humans with human-like interviewers on interviewees’ level of actual disclosure has not been well-researched. This experiment compared disclosure of sensitive information obtained from personal interviews utilizing various interviewer modes. One-hundred and fifty-eight students from a southwestern university were randomly assigned to answer a series of open-ended questions in one of three different personal interview modes: 1) audio-only computer-assisted self-interview (i.e., ACASI); 2) human-like embodied conversational agent (i.e., ECA); or 3) a human interviewer. Disclosure was measured using both self-report and objective scores derived from trained judges. Disclosure levels were significantly higher in the faceless ACASI condition than in the combined virtual and human interviewer conditions – both of which were embodied with a face. There was no significant difference between the ECA and human interviewer conditions. This suggests that the mere presence of a human face can inhibit disclosure.

Publication Date





Audio computer-assisted interviews, Embodied conversational agents, Personal interviews, Sensitive information disclosure


Department of Accountancy