Emotional Responses to Computers: Experiences in Unfairness, Anger, and Spite

Publication Title

Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Publication Date


Document Type



Artificial Intelligence, Communication, Educational Technology, Human Computer Interaction, Intelligence


Communication Technology and New Media | Educational Methods | Educational Technology | Human Factors Psychology | Online and Distance Education


Although some educational technology theorists and researchers view technology as a set of neutral tools, recent theoretical and empirical work has begun to examine technology as a social actor in relationships with humans. Drawing on recent research on people's psychological responses to interactive media, this study looked at people's emotional responses to computers when they felt that the computer had cheated them. Specifically we looked at whether people would act spitefully towards a computer (by attempting to punish it) when treated unfairly in an ultimatum bargaining game. Our findings suggest humans do treat machines as social actors, enter into psychological contracts with them, and act spitefully after feeling betrayed. We end with a discussion on implications for the design of educational software.