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Empathy with and Projecting Feelings from Schemas about Humans onto Robots that Differ in Facial Expressivity

Sat, May 27, 8:00 to 9:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 2, Indigo Ballroom C


Quintessential to the rise of social robots in service-oriented professions such as healthcare, hospitality, and education is emotional responsiveness. The current paper examines the question in what way and to which degrees people’s empathetic and emotional responsiveness varies to humans and humanoid robots that differ in facial expressivity. We conducted a two-factorial 3 (Robokind “Alice” vs. Aldebaran “Nao” vs. Human face) x2 (treatment: positive vs. negative) between-subjects experiment. Randomly assigned participants (N=265) were measured for empathy, emotional responsiveness, and emotion attribution. As expected, participants responded empathetically and emotionally toward the humanoid robots, yet less intense than they did toward humans. Both robots and the human were attributed feeling pain upon maltreatment at similar levels. Results further indicated slightly stronger responsiveness toward more plasticity in the robot’s face (i.e., robot Alice). Implications for future research and potential for healthcare, education, and service professions are discussed.


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