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Shoplifters Deterred by Digital Faces at Self-Service Checkouts

Dominique Adams


self-service checkout

Shoppers are positively influenced by greater social presence, such as human-like features, according to researchers Abertay University.

Realistic virtual human faces at tills make customers less likely to steal, researchers at Abertay University found.

Previous studies revealed that here is a correlation between the rise of automation in retail and the increased likelihood of customers behaving dishonestly at self-service checkouts.

Researchers at Abertay University developed virtual human characters to verify their theory that their presence at self-service checkouts would affect customer behaviour.

Participants in the study were placed in a simulation of a self-service checkout scenario. They were then asked to scan or weigh items, before paying for them, providing them with the opportunity to select lesser weights or scan fewer items.

Analysis of the results revealed that when presented with a realistic life-like human face at the till, shoppers were much less likely to shoplift, or cheat on their bill than when presented with less human-like characters.


Susan Siebenaler, who conducted the research for her PhD, said: “The participants were placed in situations in which they could benefit financially through dishonest behaviour.

“Participants appeared to be positively influenced by greater social presence, such as human-like features, which meant they were less likely to cheat.”

Dr Andrea Szymkowiak, senior lecturer in Human Computer Interaction, added: “People are responsive to social human cues, and there seems to be an in-built mechanism that makes us respond to faces and eye contact.

“The idea here is that the presence of human-like digital characters may influence shopper behaviour, but further research is required to determine the real-world benefit of such technology.”

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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