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Good teachers are good motivators. Motivation is a key ingredient in learning, and emotions play an important role in motivation. Therefore, we believe that pedagogical agents will be more effective teachers if they display and understand emotions. This could facilitate learning in several ways:

  1. A pedagogical agent must appear to care about the student and his progress. This will give the student a feeling that he and the agent are ``in things together,'' and will encourage the student to care about his own progress and the agent's opinion of him.
  2. A pedagogical agent must be sensitive to the student's emotions. For example, the agent must recognize a student's frustration so as to intervene with assistance and encouragement before the student loses interest.
  3. A pedagogical agent should convey enthusiasm for the subject matter, in order to foster similar enthusiasm in the student. To achieve a credible appearance of enthusiasm in an agent, it is useful to model the emotions that underlie it.
  4. A pedagogical agent with a rich and interesting personality may simply make learning more fun. A student that enjoys interacting with a pedagogical agent will have a more positive perception of the whole learning experience. A student that enjoys a learning environment will undoubtedly spend more time there, which is likely to increase learning.

We cannot, at this point, claim to elevate these much beyond the level of intuition, but they are highly commonsensical, and are also testable hypotheses (and c.f. [Lester & Stone1997]). By directly comparing the effectiveness of pedagogical agents with and without various types of emotional capabilities, we can better understand the role of emotion in learning.

Clark Elliott
Mon Mar 10 19:53:21 EST 1997