Study Investigates Why We Hate Digital Assistants Like Clippy

Duran Medine, YouTube
Duran Medine, YouTube

Do you remember getting annoyed every time Clippy, Microsoft Office’s friendly animated paper-clip, tried to help you draft a document? Or do you now feel like Siri is just a little bit condescending? You’re not alone. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, most of us really don’t like receiving help from anthropomorphized digital assistants.

Researchers decided to investigate how consumers respond to digital assistants with human or non-human features. They recruited several hundred students to play a series of puzzle games on a computer. During each game, when participants got stuck or confused, they could click on a help icon which would either reveal a smiling face or a faceless interface to give them advice.

The team found that participants felt less autonomous, or less in control, when given help by the anthropomorphized interface, and enjoyed the game less as a whole. Even though the help given was the same regardless of interface, participants couldn’t help but feel a sense of unpleasant dependence when their helper seemed more human. On the flip side, researchers found that the faceless interface was seen as a tool and so did not detract from participants’ sense of autonomy.

The researchers wrote, “In the current research, consumers enjoyed a computer game less when they received assistance from a computerized helper imbued with humanlike features than from a helper construed as a mindless entity. We offer a novel mechanism that the presence of an anthropomorphized helper can undermine individuals’ perceived autonomy during a computer game.”

That is, while we all knew that Clippy wasn’t functionally any different from using the help menu in Microsoft Office, it was hard not to feel a bit annoyed (or, in the study’s terms, a bit like our “autonomy was being undermined”) when an overly cheerful paperclip popped up and started giving us unsolicited advice.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Anti-Spam App Unsubscribes You From Mailing Lists—and Can Even Get You Paid for the Bother

He can't believe how uncluttered his email inbox is.
He can't believe how uncluttered his email inbox is.
Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Keeping newsletters and sale e-blasts from piling up in your inbox can sometimes seem as labor-intensive as weeding a literal garden. And for every mailing list you successfully manage to remove yourself from, there’s another one that you inexplicably end up on.

Fortunately, you can outsource the unsubscribing process to a robot. According to WIRED, the service is available through DoNotPay, an app that helps users dispute parking tickets, claim compensation for airfare, sign up for free trials without using their own credit card information, sue companies in small claims courts, and crawl through a variety of other red tape in the easiest, most automatic way possible.

Instead of figuring out how to unsubscribe to each unwanted email, you just forward the email to spam@donotpay.com, and a bot will do it for you. Unlike similar services, DoNotPay doesn’t require access to your whole email account, and it won’t turn around and sell your data to a third party. What it will do is search to see if there’s a class action settlement against whatever company sent the email—if there is, you can have DoNotPay add your name to it, and you’ll get compensated if you’re eligible.

“When I looked at other spam solutions, either they were selling your data or you still had to give carte blanche access to your email, and it was very expensive,” DoNotPay founder and CEO Joshua Browder told WIRED. “These companies are meant to protect your emails and protect your privacy, and it’s so ironic that they do the exact opposite. So we set out to build a service that doesn’t sell your data and also has this added component of getting compensation by matching you to class action settlements.”

A subscription to DoNotPay costs $3 per month, which includes its entire range of services (in other words, there are plenty of opportunities to earn back more than those few dollars). You can find out more and subscribe here.

[h/t WIRED]