“Hit the robot on the head with this mallet” – making a case for including more open questions in HRI research

Riddoch, K. A. and Cross, E. S. (2021) “Hit the robot on the head with this mallet” – making a case for including more open questions in HRI research. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 8, 603510. (doi: 10.3389/frobt.2021.603510) (PMID:33718438) (PMCID:PMC7947676)

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Researchers continue to devise creative ways to explore the extent to which people perceive robots as social agents, as opposed to objects. One such approach involves asking participants to inflict ‘harm’ on a robot. Researchers are interested in the length of time between the experimenter issuing the instruction and the participant complying, and propose that relatively long periods of hesitation might reflect empathy for the robot, and perhaps even attribution of human-like qualities, such as agency and sentience. In a recent experiment, we adapted the so-called ‘hesitance to hit’ paradigm, in which participants were instructed to hit a humanoid robot on the head with a mallet. After standing up to do so (signaling intent to hit the robot), participants were stopped, and then took part in a semi-structured interview to probe their thoughts and feelings during the period of hesitation. Thematic analysis of the responses indicate that hesitation not only reflects perceived socialness, but also other factors including (but not limited to) concerns about cost, mallet disbelief, processing of the task instruction, and the influence of authority. The open-ended, free responses participants provided also offer rich insights into individual differences with regards to anthropomorphism, perceived power imbalances, and feelings of connection toward the robot. In addition to aiding understanding of this measurement technique and related topics regarding socialness attribution to robots, we argue that greater use of open questions can lead to exciting new research questions and interdisciplinary collaborations in the domain of social robotics.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Riddoch, Katie and Cross, Professor Emily
Authors: Riddoch, K. A., and Cross, E. S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Frontiers in Robotics and AI
Publisher:Frontiers Media
ISSN (Online):2296-9144
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 Riddoch and Cross
First Published:First published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI 8:603510
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
303930SOCIAL ROBOTSEmily CrossEuropean Research Council (ERC)677270NP - Centre for Neuroscience
304215Philip Leverhulme Prize - ECEmily CrossLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHUL)PLP-2018-152NP - Centre for Neuroscience