The influence of Computer-based model's race and gender on female students' attitudes and beliefs towards engineering

Rlnat B. Rosenberg-Kima, E. Ashby Plant, Celeste E. Doerr, Amy L. Baylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: This study explored the use of interface agents, anthropomorphic, 3D-animated computer characters that provide teaching or mentoring within a computer-based learning environment, to encourage young Black and White women to pursue careers in engineering. PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS): We hypothesized that computer-based models that matched young women in terms of their race and gender would be the most effective in positively influencing their interest, self-efficacy and stereotypes about engineering. DESIGN/METHOD: Eighty African American undergraduate female students in Experiment 1 and 39 White undergraduate female students in Experiment 2 interacted with a computer-based agent that provided a narrative designed to encourage them to pursue engineering careers. The study employed a 2 X 2 between subjects factorial design (agent gender: male vs. female and agent race: Black vs. White). RESULTS: Across both studies we found that race and gender influenced the effectiveness of the agent for several key outcome measures. Computer-based agents who matched the participants with respect to race and gender tended to be the most effective in improving the women's responses to engineering-related fields. Nevertheless, the White male agent was actually significantly more influential than the White female agent for female Black participants. CONCLUSIONS: Personalizing interface agent characteristics to match the target population can increase the effectiveness of a persuasive message to encourage young women to pursue engineering. Such an approach may contribute to the growth and inclusiveness of fields such as engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Volume99
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Animated pedagogical agents
  • Interface agents
  • Persuasion

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