International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 303–317 | Cite as

Reciprocity in Human-Robot Interaction: A Quantitative Approach Through the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Ultimatum Game

  • Eduardo Benítez Sandoval
  • Jürgen Brandstetter
  • Mohammad Obaid
  • Christoph Bartneck


Reciprocity is an important factor in human–human interaction, so it can be expected that it should also play a major role in human–robot interaction (HRI). Participants in our study played the Repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma Game (RPDG) and the mini Ultimatum Game (mUG) with robot and human agents, with the agents using either Tit for Tat (TfT) or Random strategies. As part of the study we also measured the perceived personality traits in the agents using the TIPI test after every round of RPDG and mUG. The results show that the participants collaborated more with humans than with a robot, however they tended to be equally reciprocal with both agents. The experiment also showed the TfT strategy as the most profitable strategy; affecting collaboration, reciprocation, profit and joint profit in the game. Most of the participants tended to be fairer with the human agent in mUG. Furthermore, robots were perceived as less open and agreeable than humans. Consciousness, extroversion and emotional stability were perceived roughly the same in humans and robots. TfT strategy became associated with an extroverted and agreeable personality in the agents. We could observe that the norm of reciprocity applied in HRI has potential implications for robot design.


Human–robot interaction Reciprocity Game theory  Prisoner’s Dilemma Ultimatum Game Cooperation 



The authors would like to acknowledge the support from NZi3 and NEC NZ Corp., in particular to Hamish House and Glen Cameron. We also want to thank the support of the UC International Doctoral Scholarship, CONACYT Scholarship and John Templeton Foundation (Award ID 36617). Additionally, we wish to thank the other members in the HIT Lab NZ: Mark Billinghurst, Jakub Zlowtoski and Anthony Poncet for their useful advice and good ideas. Thanks to Philippa Beckman for her extensive proofreading. This experiment was approved by the Human Ethics Committee of the University of Canterbury under the reference 2013/23/LR-PS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HIT Lab NZUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.t2i LabChalmers University of TechnologyGothenburgSweden

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