Empirical Evaluation of Computational Emotional Contagion Models


Jason Tsai, Emma Bowring, Stacy Marsella, and Milind Tambe. 2011. “Empirical Evaluation of Computational Emotional Contagion Models .” In International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA).


In social psychology, emotional contagion describes the widely observed phenomenon of one person’s emotions being influenced by surrounding people’s emotions. While the overall effect is agreed upon, the underlying mechanism of the spread of emotions has seen little quantification and application to computational agents despite extensive evidence of its impacts in everyday life. In this paper, we examine computational models of emotional contagion by implementing two models ([2] and [8]) that draw from two separate lines of contagion research: thermodynamics-based and epidemiological-based. We first perform sensitivity tests on each model in an evacuation simulation, ESCAPES, showing both models to be reasonably robust to parameter variations with certain exceptions. We then compare their ability to reproduce a real crowd panic scene in simulation, showing that the thermodynamics-style model ([2]) produces superior results due to the ill-suited contagion mechanism at the core of epidemiological models. We also identify that a graduated effect of fear and proximity-based contagion effects are key to producing the superior results. We then reproduce the methodology on a second video, showing that the same results hold, implying generality of the conclusions reached in the first scene.
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