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Research suggests that humans may be better for giving good news than AI

Research suggests humans are better at giving good news

If you ordered pizza, and got a message saying it was actually going to cost you less than you expected, would you feel better if it came from a human over an AI chatbot? Research suggests humans for the win!

The Journal of Marketing recently published research that discusses how consumers react differently to “good news” or “bad news,” depending if it’s received from an AI agent or a human. The “news” from the study relates to the purchase price of a product.

The research suggests that people tend to prefer receiving good news (“price is lower than expected”) from humans, and bad news (“price is actually higher than expected”) from AI.


What’s particularly interesting about the research is one of the suggested reasons could be that humans naturally infer intentions on the individual (or bot) giving the news.

That is to say, even if you know it’s just someone’s job to tell you that your pizza is going to be less money, you can’t help but feel like the human on the phone is somewhat unselfish, altruistic, and out to give you a break. For the bad news, you can’t help but feel like they are kind of jerks and out to get you! I think anyone who has worked in the service industry knows exactly how this works (i.e., blaming waiter for bad food).

In contrast, if it’s a robot on the phone or messaging you, you know bots don’t operate with motives and you don’t care as much.

Our key takeaways:

  • Humans are constantly adding emotional and social context to everything. Even if a message is transactional, people will be adding their own context to it.
  • Intention matters, a lot, to how people feel about they are interacted with.
  • AI is great, but not always best, especially when you want a positive emotional outcome from people.
  • If you have good news to share, don’t waste it with an automated message! Find a way to personalize it.
  • If you have bad news, maybe something more automated (like a chatbot) is best.

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