This robot stinks! Differences between perceived mistreatment of robot and computer partners

by   Zachary Carlson, et al.

Robots (and computers) are increasingly being used in scenarios where they interact socially with people. How people react to these agents is telling about the perceived animacy of such agents. Mistreatment of robots (or computers) by co-workers might provoke such telling reactions. The purpose of this study was to discover if people perceived mistreatment directed towards a robot any differently than toward a computer. This will provide some understanding of how people perceive robots in collaborative social settings. We conducted a between-subjects study with 80 participants. Participants worked cooperatively with either a robot or a computer which acted as the "recorder" for the group. A confederate either acted aggressively or neutrally towards the "recorder." We hypothesized that people would not socially accept mistreatment towards an agent that they felt was intelligent and similar to themselves; that participants would perceive the robot as more similar in appearance and emotional capability to themselves than a computer; and would observe more mistreatment. The final results supported our hypothesis; the participants observed mistreatment in the robot, but not the computer. Participants felt significantly more sympathetic towards the robot and also believed that it was much more emotionally capable.


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