Don’t Matter If You’re This Or That

Kyoto University

Kyoto, Japan — Prejudice and fear have always been at the core of intergroup hostilities.

While intergroup interaction is a prerequisite for initiating peace and stability at the junction of clashing interests, values, and cultures, the risk of further escalation precisely from direct interactions cannot be ruled out. In particular, a shortage of impartial, nonpartisan personnel to properly manage an electronic contact — or E-contact — session may cause the process to backfire and become destabilized.

Now, a research team including Kyoto University has shown that interactive AI programs may help reduce prejudice and anxiety among historically divided ethnic groups in Afghanistan during online interactions.

“Compared to the control group, participants in the AI intervention group showed more engagement in our study and significantly less prejudice and anxiety toward other ethnic groups,” says Sofia Sahab of KyotoU’s Graduate School of Informatics.

In collaboration with Nagoya University, Nagoya Institute of Technology, and Hokkaido University, Sahab’s team has tested the effectiveness of using a CAI — or conversational AI — on the discussion platform D-Agree to facilitate unbiased and constructive conversations. The program ensures participants a safe, private space to talk freely, a setting that is commonly taken for granted in war-free countries.

“Our over-decade-long work on AI agent-based consensus-building support has empirically demonstrated AI agents’ applicability in de-escalating confrontational situations,” remarks co-author Takayuki Ito, also of the informatics school.

Sahab’s team applied a randomized controlled experiment to determine the causal effects of conversational AI facilitation in online discussions in reducing prejudice and anxiety.

Participants from three ethnic backgrounds were divided into two groups — an AI group and a non-AI control group — to gauge the effects. As expected, the former expressed more empathy toward outside groups than participants in the control group.

“The neutral AI agents aim to reduce risks by coordinating guided conversations as naturally as possible. By providing fair and cost-effective strategies to encourage positive interactions, we can promote lasting harmony among diverse ethnic groups,” adds Sahab.

In the long term, the researchers are considering the potential for AI intervention beyond border conflicts to promote positive social change.

“AI may have come at a pivotal time to aid humanity in enhancing social sustainability with CAI-mediated human interactions,” reflects Sahab.

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