Date of Award

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design & Technology

Committee Director

Ginger S. Watson

Committee Member

Kimberly Adams Tufts

Committee Member

Amy Adcock

Committee Member

James Bliss


Humans are distinct from machines in their capacity to emote, stimulate, and express emotions. Because emotions play such an important role in human interactions, human-like agents used in pedagogical roles for simulation-based training should properly reflect emotions. Currently, research concerning the development of this type of agent focuses on basic agent interface characteristics, as well as character building qualities. However, human-like agents should provide emotion-like qualities that are clearly expressed, properly synchronized, and that simulate complex, real-time interactions through adaptive emotion systems.

The research conducted for this dissertation was a quantitative investigation using 3 (within) x 2 (between) x 3 (within) factorial design. A total of 56 paid participants consented to complete the study. Independent variables included emotion intensity (i.e., low, moderate, and high emotion), levels of expertise (novice participant versus experienced participant), and number of trials. Dependent measures included visual attention, emotional response towards the animated agents, simulation performance score, and learners' perception of the pedagogical agent persona while participants interacted with a pain assessment and management simulation.

While no relationships were indicated between the levels of emotion intensity portrayed by the animated agents and the participants' visual attention, emotional response towards the animated agent, and simulation performance score, there were significant relationships between the level of expertise of the participant and the visual attention, emotional responses, and performance outcomes. The results indicated that nursing students had higher visual attention during their interaction with the animated agents. Additionally, nursing students expressed more neutral facial expression whereas experienced nurses expressed more emotional facial expressions towards the animated agents. The results of the simulation performance scores indicated that nursing students obtained higher performance scores in the pain assessment and management task than experienced nurses. Both groups of participants had a positive perception of the animated agents persona.


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