Don’t Stare at Me: The Impact of a Humanoid Robot’s Gaze upon Trust During a Cooperative Human–Robot Visual Task


Gaze is an important tool for social communication. Gaze can influence trust, likability, and compliance. However, excessive gaze in some contexts can signal threat, dominance and aggression, and hence complex social rules govern the appropriate use of gaze. Using a between-subjects design we investigated the impact of three levels of robot gaze (averted, constant and “situational”) upon participants’ likelihood of trusting a humanoid robot’s opinion in a cooperative visual tracking task. The robot, acting as a confederate, would disagree with participants’ responses on certain trials, and suggest a different answer. As constant, staring gaze between strangers is associated with dominance and threat, and averted gaze is associated with lying, we predicted participants would be most likely to be persuaded by a robot which only gazed during disagreements (“situational gaze”). However, gender effects were found, with females least likely to trust a robot which stared at them, and no significant differences between averted gaze and situational gaze. Implications and future work are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. 1.

    The “shell game”, also known as the “cup game”, involves hiding a small object underneath one of three identical cups, and then quickly moving the cups to create uncertainty as to the object’s true location.

  2. 2.

    For more information about the Nao visit

  3. 3.

    As the robot was programmed to always provide the correct answer on Easy trials, Easy trials are not considered in the analysis. Furthermore, participants gave the correct answer on 93.9% percent of Easy trials, and therefore the robot rarely disagreed with participants on Easy trials.


  1. 1.

    Tickle-Degnen L, Rosenthal R (1990) The nature of rapport and its nonverbal correlates. Psychol Inq 1(4):285–293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Olivola CY, Todorov A (2010) Elected in 100 milliseconds: appearance-based trait inferences and voting. J Nonverbal Behav 34(2):83–110

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Feingold A (1992) Good-looking people are not what we think. Psychol Bull 111(2):304–341

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Farmer H, McKay R, Tsakiris M (2014) Trust in me: trustworthy others are seen as more physically similar to the self. Pschol Sci 25(1):290–292

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Harrigan JA, Oxman TE, Rosenthal R (1985) Rapport expressed through nonverbal behavior. J Nonverbal Behav 9(2):95–110

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Lafrance M, Broadbent M (1976) Group rapport: posture sharing as a nonverbal indicator. J Group Organ Manag 1(3):328–333

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Guéguen N (2013) Handshaking and compliance with a request: a door-to-door setting. Soc Behav Personal 41(10):1585–1588

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Kleinke CL (1986) Gaze and eye contact: a research review. Psychol Bull 100(1):78–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Wheller RH, Baron JC, Michell S, Ginsburg HJ (1979) Eye contact and the perception of intelligence. Bull Psychon Soc 13:101–102

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Ekman P, Friesen WV, O’Sullivan M (1988) Smiles when lying. J Personal Soc Psychol 54:414–420

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Murphy N (2007) Appearing smart: the impression management of intelligence, person perception accuracy, and behavior in social interaction. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 33(3):325–339

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Langton SR, Watt RJ, Bruce V (2000) Do they eyes have it? Cues to the direction of social attention. Trends Cogn Sci 4(2):50–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Burgoon JK, Manusov V, Mineo P, Hale JU (1985) Effects of gaze on hiring, credibility, attraction and relational message interpretation. J Nonverbal Behahav 9(3):133–146

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Kendon A (1967) Some functions of gaze direction in social interaction. Acta Psychol 32(1):1–25

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Siegman AW, Feldstein S (2014) Multichannel integrations of nonverbal behavior. Psychology Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Kleinke CK, Singer DA (1979) Influence of gaze on compliance with demanding and conciliatory requests in a field setting. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 5(1):386–390

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Snyder M, Grether J, Keller K (1974) Staring and compliance: a field experiment on hitchhiking. J Appl Soc Psychol 4(1):165–170

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Bull R, Gibson-Robinson E (1981) The influence of eye-gaze, style of dress, and locality on the amounts of money donated to a charity. Human Relat 34(1):895–905

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Hemsley GD, Doob AN (1978) The effect of looking behavior on perceptions of a communicator’s credibility. J Appl Soc Psychol 8(2):1559–1816

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Sparks A, Barclay P (2013) Eye images increase generosity, but not for long: the limited effect of a false cue. Evol Human Behav 34(1):317–322

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Haley KJ, Fessler DMT (2005) Nobodys watching? Subtle cues affect generosity in an anonymous economic game. Evol Human Behav 26(1):245–256

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Fehr E, Schneider F (2010) Eyes are on us, but nobody cares: are eye cues relevant for strong reciprocity? Proc Biol Sci 277(1686):1315–1323

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Hancock PA, Billings DR, Schaefer KE, Chen JY, de Visser EJ, Parasuraman R (2011) A meta-analysis of factors affecting trust in human–robot interaction. Human Factors 53(5):517–527

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Otteson JP, Otteson CR (1980) Effects of teacher gaze on childrens story recall. Percept Motor Skills 50(1):35–42

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Mutlu B, Forlizzi J, Hodgins J (2006) A storytelling robot: modeling and evaluation of human-like gaze behavior. In: Proceedings of the IEEE conference on humanoid robots, pp 518–523

  26. 26.

    Ham J, Bokhorst R, Cuijpers R, van der Pol D, Cabibihan JJ (2011) Making robots persuasive: the influence of combining persuasive strategies (gazing and gestures) by a storytelling robot on its persuasive power. In: Third international conference on social robotics ICSR, vol 7072, no 1, pp 71–83

  27. 27.

    Chidambaram V, Chiang YH, Mutlu B (2012) Designing persuasive robots: how robots might persuade people using vocal and nonverbal cues. In: Proceedings of the ACM/IEEE Intl. Conf. on HRI, pp 293–300

  28. 28.

    DeSteno D, Breazeal C, Frank RH, Pizarro D, Baumann J, Dickens L, Lee JJ (2012) Detecting the trustworthinness of novel partners in economic exchange. Psychol Sci 23:1549–1556

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Stanton C, Stevens CJ (2014) Robot pressure: the impact of robot eye gaze and lifelike bodily movements upon decision-making and trust. In: Proceedings of the 6th international conference on social robotics ICSR, pp 330–339

  30. 30.

    Kleinke CL (1980) Interaction between gaze and legitimacy of request on compliance in a field setting. Nonverbal Behav 5(1):3–12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Hinde RA, Rowell TE (1962) Communication by posture and facial expression in the rhesus monkey. Proc Zool Soc Lond 138(1):1–21

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Perrett DI, Smith PAJ, Potter DD, Mistlin AJ, Head AS, Milner AD, Jeeves MA (1985) Visual cells in the temporal cortex sensitive to face view and gaze direction. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 223(1232):293–317

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Emery NJ, Lorincz EN, Perrett DI, Oram MW, Baker CI (1997) Gaze following and joint attention in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatto). J Comp Psychol 111(3):286–293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Nichols KA, Champness BG (1971) Eye gaze and the GSR. J Exp Soc Psychol 7(1):623–626

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Mazur A, Rosa E, Faupel M, Heller J, Leen R, Thurman B (1980) Physiological aspects of communication via mutual gaze. Am J Soc 86(1):50–74

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Knapp M, Hall J, Horgan T (2013) Non-verbal communication in human interaction, 8th edn. Boston, Wadsworth

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Thayer S (1969) The effects of interpersonal looking duration on dominance judgments. J Soc Psychol 79(1):285–286

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    DeVito JA (2011) Human communication: the basic course. Pearson, London

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Argyle M, Cook M (1976) Gaze and mutual gaze. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Coutts LM, Schneider FW (1976) Affiliative conflict theory: an investigation of the intimacy equilibrium and compensation hypothesis. J Personal Soc Psychol 34(6):1135–1142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Broz F, Lehmann H, Nehaniv CL, Dautenhahn K (2012) Mutual gaze, personality, and familiarity: dual eye-tracking during conversation. In: Proceedings of the IEEE RO-MAN, pp 858–864

  42. 42.

    Argle M, Lefebvre L, Cook M (1974) The meaning of 5 patterns of gaze. Eur J Soc Psychol 4(2):125–136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Chen FS, Minson JA, Schne M, Heinrichs M (2013) In the eye of the beholder: eye contact increases resistance to persuasion. Psychol Sci 24(11):2254–2261

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Taylor R, Hick RF (2007) Believed cues to deception: judgements in self-generated serious and trivial situations. Leg Criminol Psychol 12(1):321–332

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Einav S, Hood BM (2008) Tell-tale eyes: childrens attribution of gaze aversion as a lying cue. Dev Psychol 44(6):1655–1667

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Mann S, Vrij A, Leal S, Granhag PA, Warmelink L, Forrester D (2012) Windows to the soul? Deliberate eye contact as a cue to deceit. J Nonverbal Behav 36(1):205–215

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Mann S, Ewens S, Shaw D, Vrij A, Leal S, Hillman J (2013) Lying eyes: why liars seek deliberate eye contact. Psychiatry Psychol Law 20(3):452–461

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Takayama L, Pantofaru C (2009) Influences on proxemic behaviors in human–robot interaction. In: Proceedings of the intelligent robots and systems IROS, pp 5495–5502

  49. 49.

    Mumm J, Mutlu B (2011) Human-robot proxemics: physical and psychological distancing in human–robot interaction. In: Proceedings of the 6th international conf on human–robot interaction, pp 331–338

  50. 50.

    Feldman RS (1991) Fundamentals of nonverbal behavior. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Bhaskaran N, Nwogum I, Frank MG, Govindaraju V (2011) Lie to me: deceit detection via online behavioral learning. In: Proceedings of the IEEE international conference on automatic face and gesture recognition, pp 24–29

  52. 52.

    Mann S, Vrij A, Bull R (2004) Detecting true lies: police officers’ ability to detect suspects’ lies. J Appl Psychol 89(1):137–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Kraut R (1980) Humans as lie detectors. J Commun 30(4):209–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Vrij A (2000) Detecting lies and deceit: the psychology of lying and the implications for professional practice. Wiley, Chichester

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher John Stanton.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Stanton, C.J., Stevens, C.J. Don’t Stare at Me: The Impact of a Humanoid Robot’s Gaze upon Trust During a Cooperative Human–Robot Visual Task. Int J of Soc Robotics 9, 745–753 (2017).

Download citation


  • Trust
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Gaze
  • Human–robot interaction