An Experimental Study on Emotional Reactions Towards a Robot


Although robots are starting to enter into our professional and private lives, little is known about the emotional effects which robots elicit. However, insights into this topic are an important prerequisite when discussing, for example, ethical issues regarding the question of what role we (want to) allow robots to play in our lives. In line with the Media Equation, humans may react towards robots as they do towards humans, making it all the more important to carefully investigate the preconditions and consequences of contact with robots. Based on assumptions on the socialness of reactions towards robots and anecdotal evidence of emotional attachments to robots (e.g. Klamer and BenAllouch in Trappl R. (ed.), Proceedings of EMCSR 2010, Vienna, 2010; Klamer and BenAllouch in Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI-2010), Atlanta, GA. ACM, New York, 2010; Krämer et al. in Appl. Artif. Intell. 25(6):474–502, 2011), we conducted a study that provides further insights into the question of whether humans show emotional reactions towards Ugobe’s Pleo, which is shown in different situations. We used a 2×2 design with one between-subjects factor “prior interaction with the robot” (never seen the robot before vs. 10-minute interaction with the robot) and a within-subject factor “type of video” (friendly interaction video vs. torture video). Following a multi-method approach, we assessed participants’ physiological arousal and self-reported emotions as well as their general evaluation of the videos and the robot. In line with our hypotheses, participants showed increased physiological arousal during the reception of the torture video as compared to the normal video. They also reported fewer positive and more negative feelings after the torture video and expressed empathic concern for the robot. It appears that the acquaintance with the robot does not play a role, as “prior interaction with the robot” showed no effect.

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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program [FP7/2007-2013] under grant agreement No. 231868.

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Correspondence to Astrid M. Rosenthal-von der Pütten.

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Rosenthal-von der Pütten, A.M., Krämer, N.C., Hoffmann, L. et al. An Experimental Study on Emotional Reactions Towards a Robot. Int J of Soc Robotics 5, 17–34 (2013).

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  • Human-robot interaction
  • Emotional response
  • Empathy
  • Psychophysiological measures
  • Experimental study