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USERS ACCEPT THEIR COMPUTERS AS ONLY HUMAN, RESEARCHERS SAY.

Byline: Mary Beth Sammons Chicago Tribune

How you relate to your computer and the other machines in your life may depend on if you regard it as having male or female traits and how you view your own gender traits.

According to a team of Stanford University researchers, we imbue computers with the same characteristics as humans, and whether we see them as male or female influences the quality and dynamics of our relationships with them.

``It's been proven that people have the same response to male and female computer voices as they do to people in real life, and the same prejudices,'' says Byron Reeves, a social science professor at Stanford, and co-author of ``The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television and the New Media Like Real People and Places'' (Cambridge University Press; $27.95).

``Computer users don't respond as well to female voices when they are instructing about technology,'' says Reeves. ``But they believe more in the female voice if it is discussing love and relationships.''

Your screen freezes? You've lost a file? The way you express your frustration (angry cursing, patient coaxing or desperate pleading) corresponds to whether you perceive the machine as female or male.

``It's important to realize that you are making a lot of those responses to your computer based on if you think it is a man or woman speaking to you,'' Reeves says.

And while it may seem silly, Reeves says the emotional quotient of your response is understandable.

``You shouldn't feel stupid or inappropriate if you find that you are responding to your computer with intense feelings,'' says Reeves, who, with Stanford teaching colleague and co-author Clifford Nass, reviewed 35 different studies involving thousands of women and men from all walks of life and with a wide range of computer expertise to produce the book. Reeves hopes the research will benefit computer and workplace designers.

``Computers are a social entity and can take on the same characteristics as humans, being demanding or not polite,'' he says.
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 13, 1997
Words:336
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