Shrreya Aagarwal, a research assistant in the CORE Lab, wins multiple awards.

Recently, Shrreya Aagarwal, an undergraduate Research Assistant in the CORE Lab, received two awards to fund her research curiosities. The two grants that Shrreya received are the Honors Propel Grant and the Peak Summit Award, both of which are funded through university-wide competitions.

The Honors Propel Grant enables students to propose new projects, or amplify projects that may have stemmed from an educational setting, such as a course, co-op, or research position.

The PEAK Summit Award is intended for students who have a deep understanding of research, and can demonstrate the ability to work mostly independently during the process.

Shrreya, having been a Research Assistant in the CORE Lab for almost three years, certainly possesses a strong foundation in terms of research understanding. She applied for these grants to fund her project titled, “Anthropomorphism, Essentialism, and Artificial Intelligence ” a project that aims to understand how people’s intuitive biases affect their comfort with technology, specifically with artificial intelligence (AI). As a psychology major with a minor in computer science, this project stemmed from her interest in merging the two. 

The intuitive biases that Shrreya is focusing on include anthropomorphism and essentialism. Anthropomorphism involves using humans as a base for reasoning about non-human entities. Essentialism is the belief that entities have an “essence” that gives rise to observable regularities and constitutes category membership. Little is known about how these intuitive biases impact people’s perception of and comfort with technology. 

Participants for Shrreya’s study are currently being recruited from two subsets of people: Students at Northeastern who are studying computer science, and students at Northeastern that are not studying computer science. All participants will complete a survey distributed through Qualtrics that will assess their endorsement of anthropomorphism, essentialism, and their comfort with technology. Shrreya uses novel, self-developed measures to understand how people perceive technology.

Shrreya predicts that overall, participants who endorse anthropomorphic biases will have increased comfort with technology. Alternatively, she predicts that participants who score higher on essentialism measures will express less comfort with technology. When comparing groups, Shrreya predicts that computer science majors will express increased comfort overall with technology, but the strength of their intuitive biases is an open question. 

This research is timely, as we are living in the digital age where technology is a part of our everyday lives. Shrreya emphasizes how crucial it is to understand people’s comfort with technology. This can inform many fields, from psychology to computer science to engineering. These results can inform how technology is designed to better users’ experiences. 

Shrreya will be graduating from Northeastern this May, entering the Human Computer Interaction and Human Factors Masters program at Rice University.