Why People Hate the Paperclip: Labels, Appearance, Behavior, and Social Responses to User Interface Agents

User interface agents are increasingly used in software products; perhaps the best-known user interface agent is the Microsoft Office Assistant (“Clippy the Paperclip”). This thesis explores why many people have a negative response to the Office Assistant, using a combination of theoretical, qualitative, and quantitative studies. Among the findings were that labels–whether internal cognitive labels or explicit system-provided labels–of user interface agents can influence users’ perceptions of those agents. Similarly, specific agent appearance (for example, whether the agent is depicted as a character or not) and behavior (for example, if it obeys standards of social etiquette, or if it tells jokes) can affect users’ responses, especially in interaction with labels. —Luke Swartz
Why People Hate the Paperclip: Labels, Appearance, Behavior, and Social Responses to User Interface Agents (Stanford University)

Brilliant!