Psychology as engineering science: Building Mr. Right
The 21st century has seen the rapid development of virtual humans, human facsimiles that can interact with people using the same verbal and nonverbal behavior that people use. Virtual humans have been applied to a wide range of education, training, health and entertainment applications. The design of virtual humans relies on a wide range of psychological theories as well as empirical data gathered from human subject experiments. Conversely, virtual humans are now widely used in a range of psychological research. In social psychology, for example, they have been used as precisely controlled confederates in experiments. Additionally, the computational models that comprise virtual humans can serve as a methodological tool in the formation, detailed specification and simulation of psychological theories. Finally, integration of perceptual, cognitive, emotional, (non)verbal capacities within a virtual human bring to the foreground a concern for the mental ecology of these capacities, a concern that is less emphasized in research that takes a more faculty oriented decomposition of mental processes. In this talk, I will crack open virtual human technology to highlight some of the research and data that underlies their creation. I will then proceed to discuss recent efforts that tie together a virtual human’s cognitive/emotional processes, their own expressive behavior as well as their modeling and understanding of others’ behavior.