Abusive Behavior towards AI Voice Assistants The perspective of voice assistant users

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Although personal voice assistants are increasingly becoming part of people’s daily lives, they are simultaneously falling victim to mishandling and verbal abuse. This study examines the underlying motives for voice assistant users to engage in abusive behavior towards their voice assistants. Limited existing studies on this topic have acknowledged the existence of abusive behavior towards voice assistants, yet no study has explored the underlying motives for people to engage in such a behavior. This study, however, took a qualitative approach to understand the core triggers for users to abuse their voice assistants in more depth. The current research involved semi-structured in-depth interviews with 16 active voice assistant users. The results show that the underlying motives for users to verbally abuse their voice assistants are frustration, curiosity, fun and the desire to relieve stress. Based on the different triggers, different types of abusive behaviors are evoked by the users. The type of abusive behavior, on its parts, alters based on the users’ perception and relationship with the voice assistant. The environment that the users are in, also impacts the abusive behavior towards the assistant. Similarly, the triggers for abusing the voice assistant are influenced by several contextual factors. This study further identified two factors that facilitate the abuse towards voice assistants, namely the fact that it has no emotions and that it does not fight back, aspects which can be linked to the assistant’s lack of human-likeness. Finally, it was found that users do not rationalize their behavior after abusing the voice assistant, as they do not evoke any feelings of guilt. The findings of this study have direct implications for the design of voice assistants in order to decrease users’ abusive behavior towards them.
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