Would people feel guilty if their robot avatar acted autonomously to harm someone? We examined the experience of guilt during robot avatar embodiment, a form of embodiment where the participants experience the body of a humanoid robot as if it were their own. In particular, we analyzed what happens when a robot avatar spontaneously verbally abuses someone during a conversation using the participant’s voice, without this being the intention of the participant. In a 2 × 2 between-subjects experimental design, participants embodied a humanoid robot that added either offensive or neutral words during a conversation with a confederate, and had control over the robot’s movements or not (synch. vs. asynch.). We found that guilt and shame were positively associated with offensive words and that apologizing and verbal repair were positively related to guilt. Also, body ownership was moderately associated to apologizing and verbal repair. The results suggest that people may feel guilty for the actions of their robot avatars even if they are not the real agents of these actions. The work highlights the importance of examining the moral and legal aspects related to robot embodiment technologies.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Steptoe W, Normand J, Superiore S, Anna S, Steed A, Kautz J, Slater M (2012) Acting rehearsal in collaborative multimodal mixed reality. Presence Teleoperators Virtual Environ 21(4):406–422
Perez-Marcos D, Solazzi M, Steptoe W, Oyekoya O, Frisoli A, Weyrich T, Steed A, Tecchia F, Slater M, Sanchez-Vives MV (2012) A fully immersive set-up for remote interaction and neurorehabilitation based on virtual body ownership. Front Neurol 3:110
Kishore S, Navarro X, Dominguez E, de la Peña N, Slater M (2018) Beaming into the news: a system for and case study of tele-immersive journalism. IEEE Comput Graph Appl 38(2):89–101. https://doi.org/10.1109/MCG.2017.2801407
Steed A, Steptoe W, Oyekoya W, Pece F, Weyrich T, Kautz J, Friedman D, Peer A, Solazzi M, Tecchia F, Bergamasco M, Slater M (2012) Beaming: an asymmetric telepresence system. IEEE Comput Graph Appl 32(6):10–17
Kishore S, Navarro Muncunill X, Bourdin P, Or-Berkers K, Friedman D, Slater M, Muncunill XN, Bourdin P, Or-Berkers K, Friedman D, Slater M (2016) Multi-destination beaming: apparently being in three places at once through robotic and virtual embodiment. Front Robot AI 3:65
Alimardani M, Nishio S, Ishiguro H (2013) Humanlike robot hands controlled by brain activity arouse illusion of ownership in operators. Sci Rep 3:2396
Aymerich-Franch L, Petit D, Ganesh G, Kheddar A (2015) Embodiment of a humanoid robot is preserved during partial and delayed control. In: 2015 IEEE international workshop on advanced robotics and its social impacts
Aymerich-Franch L, Petit D, Ganesh G, Kheddar A (2017) Non-human looking robot arms induce illusion of embodiment. Int J Soc Robot 9(4):479–490
Aymerich-Franch L, Petit D, Ganesh G, Kheddar A (2017) Object touch by a humanoid robot avatar induces Haptic sensation in the real hand. J Comput Commun 22(4):215–230
Aymerich-Franch L, Petit D, Ganesh G, Kheddar A (2016) The second me: seeing the real body during humanoid robot embodiment produces an illusion of bi-location. Conscious Cogn 46:99–109
Cohen O, Druon S, Lengagne S, Mendelsohn A, Malach R, Kheddar A, Friedman D (2012) fMRI robotic embodiment: a pilot study. In: 2012 4th IEEE RAS EMBS international conference on biomedical robotics biomechatronics, pp 314–319
Cohen O, Koppel M, Malach R, Friedman D (2014) Controlling an avatar by thought using real-time fMRI. J Neural Eng 11(3):035006
Kishore S, González-Franco M, Hintemüller C, Kapeller C, Guger C, Slater M, Blom KJ (2014) Comparison of SSVEP BCI and eye tracking for controlling a humanoid robot in a social environment. Presence Teleoperators Virtual Environ 23(3):242–252
Kishore S, Navarro X, Dominguez E, de la Peña N, Slater M (2016) Beaming into the news: a system for and case study of tele-immersive journalism. IEEE Comput Graph Appl (in press)
Lombard M, Ditton T (1997) At the heart of it all. The concept of presence. J Comput Commun 3:20
Metzinger T (2013) Two principles for robot ethics. In: Hilgendorf E, Günther JP (eds) Robotik und Gesetzgebung. Nomos, Baden-Baden, pp 263–302
Baumeister RF, Stillwell AM, Heatherton TF (1994) Guilt: an interpersonal approach. Psychol Bull 115(2):243–267
de Hooge IE, Zeelenberg M, Breugelmans SM (2007) Moral sentiments and cooperation: differential influences of shame and guilt. Cogn Emot 21(5):1025–1042
de Hooge IE, Nelissen RMA, Breugelmans SM, Zeelenberg M (2011) What is moral about guilt? Acting ‘prosocially’ at the disadvantage of others. J Pers Soc Psychol 100(3):462–473
Tangney JP, Miller RS, Flicker L, Barlow DH (1996) Are shame, guilt, and embarrassment distinct emotions? J Pers Soc Psychol 70(6):1256–1269
Tangney JP, Stuewig J, Mashek DJ (2007) Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annu Rev Psychol 58(1):345–372
Keltner D (1996) Evidence for the distinctness of embarrassment, shame, and guilt: a study of recalled antecedents and facial expressions of emotion. Cogn Emot 10(2):155–172
Banakou D, Slater M (2014) Body ownership causes illusory self-attribution of speaking and influences subsequent real speaking. Proc Natl Acad Sci 111(49):17678–17683
Banakou D, Slater M (2017) Embodiment in a virtual body that speaks produces agency over the speaking but does not necessarily influence subsequent real speaking. Sci Rep 7(1):14227
Harder DH, Zalrna A (1990) Two promising shame and guilt scales: a construct validity comparison. J Pers Assess 55(3–4):729–745
Carpenter B, Gelman A, Hoffman M, Lee D, Goodrich B, Betancourt M, Brubaker MA, Li P, Riddell A (2017) Stan: a probabilistic programming language. J Stat Softw 76(1):1–32
Ahn SJG, Bostick J, Ogle E, Nowak KL, McGillicuddy KT, Bailenson JN (2016) Experiencing nature: embodying animals in immersive virtual environments increases inclusion of nature in self and involvement with nature. J Comput Commun 21(6):399–419
Aymerich-Franch L (2012) Can we identify with a block ? Identification with non-anthropomorphic avatars in virtual reality games. In: Proceedings of the international society for presence research annual conference
Steptoe W, Steed A, Slater M (2013) Human tails: ownership and control of extended humanoid avatars. IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph 19(4):583–590
Won AS, Bailenson J, Lee J, Lanier J (2015) Homuncular flexibility in virtual reality. J Comput Commun 20:241–259
Biocca F (1997) The Cyborg’s dilemma : progressive embodiment in virtual environments minding the body, the primordial communication medium. JCMC 3(September):1–29
Gabriels K, Poels K, Braeckman J (2014) Morality and involvement in social virtual worlds: the intensity of moral emotions in response to virtual versus real life cheating. New Media Soc 16(3):451–469
Aymerich-Franch L, Kizilcec RF, Bailenson JN (2014) The relationship between virtual self similarity and social anxiety. Front Hum Neurosci 8:1–10
Groom V, Bailenson JN, Nass C (2009) The influence of racial embodiment on racial bias in immersive virtual environments. Soc Influ 4(3):231–248
Rosenberg RS, Baughman SL, Bailenson JN (2013) Virtual superheroes: using superpowers in virtual reality to encourage prosocial behavior. PLoS ONE 8(1):1–9
Yee N, Bailenson J (2007) The proteus effect: the effect of transformed self-representation on behavior. Hum Commun Res 33(3):271–290
Laura Aymerich-Franch was supported by the Marie Curie IOF Fellowship project HumRobCooperation, funded by the European Commission, under grant agreement No PIOF-CT-622764. Sameer Kishore was supported by the project PSI2014-56301-R Ser Einstein: La Influencia de Internalizar un Cuerpo Virtual en la Inteligencia, Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad of Spain.
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Aymerich-Franch, L., Kishore, S. & Slater, M. When Your Robot Avatar Misbehaves You Are Likely to Apologize: An Exploration of Guilt During Robot Embodiment. Int J of Soc Robotics (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-019-00556-5
- Robot embodiment
- Body ownership
- Moral emotions
- Humanoid robots