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11 December 2023

I cannot believe my eyes! The top 5 emotions people feel using AI

Now that people can chat with bots as buddies, perceptions shift and boundaries blur. Can machines possess a ‘mind’? How do they stir human emotions? This groundbreaking study in Computers in Human Behavior dives into the human psyche and explores emotional responses to encounters with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Interacting with AI can evoke positive as well as negative emotions.

Take aways

  • Encounters with artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT can trigger a wide range of emotional responses in people. The most reported positive emotions are feeling surprised, amazed, happy, and amused. The most reported negative emotions are feeling uncomfortable, disappointed, frustrated and confused.
  • Especially when the AI experience surpasses expectations, people feel amazed and surprised. In contrast, sloppy AI performances might raise feelings of disappointment. 
  • AI in interactive, social roles contribute strongly to users’ perception and emotions. For instance, an easy chat with an AI might lead to feelings of happiness or amusement. However, AIs that seem intrusive or overbearing can lead to negative emotions like fear.
  • When AI systems act or look like human beings, users have stronger emotional reactions. These human vibes can wow users, or sometimes, creep users out, depending on the situation.
  • This can have implications for the user experience. Therefore, for designers of AI systems, it is crucial to test the emotional responses of human users and end-users in the development cycle of the system.

Study information

  • Who?

    266 adults (mean age: 34.7, age range 18-76, 51% male, 48% female and 1% diverse)

  • Where?


  • How?

    Two online surveys with participants from Amazon mTurk examined people's perceptions of so-called ‘artificial agents’: computers and robots that show intelligent behaviors. First, participants described interactions where the AI system showed agentic or experiential mind traits. They discussed topics like the AI's planning, memory, emotions, and unexpected actions. Then, the participants described the AI interaction context and what they felt in that situation. During the study, more than half of the participants (55%) spontaneously shared emotions when interacting with AI systems.

Facts and findings

There was a wide spectrum of emotions that people felt when engaging with AI. The most mentioned emotions were:

  1. Surprised (mentioned by 24% of the participants ),
  2. Amazed (10%)
  3. Happy (8%)
  4. Amused (8%)
  5. Uncomfortable (7%)
  6. Disappointed and frustrated (5%)
  7. Confused (3%)
  8. Other emotions (6%)
  • An example of feeling amused and entertained by AI interactions was chuckling at Siri's answer to the question "What does the fox say?"
  • Feelings of unease or discomfort were often linked to situations where the AI behaved in unexpected ways or seemed to suddenly display new abilities. For example, several users shared instances where their Alexa virtual assistant unexpectedly started laughing without any apparent reason.
  • People felt disappointed or frustrated when engaging with AI systems that performed poorly or did not meet their expectations. An example was a bank's chatbot that recognized the problem but lacked the authority to authorize a credit card for a trip scheduled for the next day.
  • Participants felt confused during their encounters with AI systems, particularly when they couldn't determine if they were communicating with a human or a machine.