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  1. Abstract Artificial intelligence (AI) is already widely used in daily communication, but despite concerns about AI’s negative effects on society the social consequences of using it to communicate remain largely unexplored. We investigate the social consequences of one of the most pervasive AI applications, algorithmic response suggestions (“smart replies”), which are used to send billions of messages each day. Two randomized experiments provide evidence that these types of algorithmic recommender systems change how people interact with and perceive one another in both pro-social and anti-social ways. We find that using algorithmic responses changes language and social relationships. More specifically, it increases communication speed, use of positive emotional language, and conversation partners evaluate each other as closer and more cooperative. However, consistent with common assumptions about the adverse effects of AI, people are evaluated more negatively if they are suspected to be using algorithmic responses. Thus, even though AI can increase the speed of communication and improve interpersonal perceptions, the prevailing anti-social connotations of AI undermine these potential benefits if used overtly. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. AI language technologies increasingly assist and expand human communication. While AI-mediated communication reduces human effort, its societal consequences are poorly understood. In this study, we investigate whether using an AI writing assistant in personal self-presentation changes how people talk about themselves. In an online experiment, we asked participants (N=200) to introduce themselves to others. An AI language assistant supported their writing by suggesting sentence completions. The language model generating suggestions was fine-tuned to preferably suggest either interest, work, or hospitality topics. We evaluate how the topic preference of a language model affected users’ topic choice by analyzing the topics participants discussed in their self-presentations. Our results suggest that AI language technologies may change the topics their users talk about. We discuss the need for a careful debate and evaluation of the topic priors built into AI language technologies. 
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  3. Human communication is increasingly intermixed with language generated by AI. Across chat, email, and social media, AI systems suggest words, complete sentences, or produce entire conversations. AI-generated language is often not identified as such but presented as language written by humans, raising concerns about novel forms of deception and manipulation. Here, we study how humans discern whether verbal self-presentations, one of the most personal and consequential forms of language, were generated by AI. In six experiments, participants (N = 4,600) were unable to detect self-presentations generated by state-of-the-art AI language models in professional, hospitality, and dating contexts. A computational analysis of language features shows that human judgments of AI-generated language are hindered by intuitive but flawed heuristics such as associating first-person pronouns, use of contractions, or family topics with human-written language. We experimentally demonstrate that these heuristics make human judgment of AI-generated language predictable and manipulable, allowing AI systems to produce text perceived as “more human than human.” We discuss solutions, such as AI accents, to reduce the deceptive potential of language generated by AI, limiting the subversion of human intuition. 
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  4. COVID-19 has been a sustained and global crisis with a strong continual impact on daily life. Staying accurately informed about COVID-19 has been key to personal and communal safety, especially for essential workers— individuals whose jobs have required them to go into work throughout the pandemic—as their employment has exposed them to higher risks of contracting the virus. Through 14 semi-structured interviews, we explore how essential workers across industries navigated the COVID-19 information landscape to get up-to-date information in the early months of the pandemic. We find that essential workers living through a sustained crisis have a broad set of information needs. We summarize these needs in a framework that centers 1) fulfilling job requirements, 2) assessing personal risk, and 3) keeping up with crisis news coverage. Our findings also show that the sustained nature of COVID-19 crisis coverage led essential workers to experience breaking points and develop coping strategies. Additionally, we show how workplace communications may act as a mediating force in this process: lack of adequate information in the workplace caused workers to struggle with navigating a contested information landscape, while consistent updates and information exchanges at work could ease the stress of information overload. Our findings extend the crisis informatics field by providing contextual knowledge about the information needs of essential workers during a sustained crisis. 
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  5. During the COVID-19 pandemic, local news organizations have played an important role in keeping communities informed about the spread and impact of the virus. We explore how political, social media, and economic factors impacted the way local media reported on COVID-19 developments at a national scale between January 2020 and July 2021. We construct and make available a dataset of over 10,000 local news organizations and their social media handles across the U.S. We use social media data to estimate the population reach of outlets (their “localness”), and capture underlying content relationships between them. Building on this data, we analyze how local and national media covered four key COVID-19 news topics: Statistics and Case Counts, Vaccines and Testing, Public Health Guidelines, and Economic Effects. Our results show that news outlets with higher population reach reported proportionally more on COVID-19 than more local outlets. Separating the analysis by topic, we expose more nuanced trends, for example that outlets with a smaller population reach covered the Statistics and Case Counts topic proportionally more, and the Economic Effects topic proportionally less. Our analysis further shows that people engaged proportionally more and used stronger reactions when COVID-19 news were posted by outlets with a smaller population reach. Finally, we demonstrate that COVID-19 posts in Republican-leaning counties generally received more comments and fewer likes than in Democratic counties, perhaps indicating controversy. 
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  7. Extending the benefits of online reading to people with reading disabilities such as dyslexia requires broader research on reading behavior in addition to existing small-scale eye-tracking studies. We conduct the first large-scale mixed-methods study of the unique reading challenges of people with dyslexia. We combine in-person interviews (N=6), online surveys (N=566) and a novel browser-based tool able to measure detailed reading behavior remotely on a controlled set of five pages (N=477) or as a browser extension (N=89) collecting long-term reading behavior data on self-selected pages. We find a variety of text and page layout factors that pose challenges to readers with and without dyslexia, and identify in-browser reading behaviors associated with dyslexia. Findings point toward improvements to technologies for identifying struggling readers, and to ways to improve the layout and appearance of online articles to improve reading ease for people with and without dyslexia. 
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  8. Social media provides a critical communication platform for political figures, but also makes them easy targets for harassment. In this paper, we characterize users who adversarially interact with political figures on Twitter using mixed-method techniques. The analysis is based on a dataset of 400 thousand users' 1.2 million replies to 756 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in the two months leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. We show that among moderately active users, adversarial activity is associated with decreased centrality in the social graph and increased attention to candidates from the opposing party. When compared to users who are similarly active, highly adversarial users tend to engage in fewer supportive interactions with their own party's candidates and express negativity in their user profiles. Our results can inform the design of platform moderation mechanisms to support political figures countering online harassment. 
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