Social Robots As Companions for Lonely Hearts: The Role of Anthropomorphism and Robot Appearance

by   Yoonwon Jung, et al.

Loneliness is a distressing personal experience and a growing social issue. Social robots could alleviate the pain of loneliness, particularly for those who lack in-person interaction. This paper investigated how the effect of loneliness on the anthropomorphism of social robots differs by robot appearance, and how it influences purchase intention. Participants viewed a video of one of the three robots (machine-like, animal-like, and human-like) moving and interacting with a human counterpart. Bootstrapped multiple regression results revealed that although the unique effect of animal-likeness on anthropomorphism compared to human-likeness was higher, lonely individuals' tendency to anthropomorphize the animal-like robot was lower than that of the human-like robot. This moderating effect remained significant after covariates were included. Bootstrapped mediation analysis showed that anthropomorphism had both a positive direct effect on purchase intent and a positive indirect effect mediated by likability. Our results suggest that lonely individuals' tendency of anthropomorphizing social robots should not be summarized into one unified inclination. Moreover, by extending the effect of loneliness on anthropomorphism to likability and purchase intent, this current study explored the potential of social robots to be adopted as companions of lonely individuals in their real life. Lastly, we discuss the practical implications of the current study for designing social robots.


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