Small Talk with a Robot? The Impact of Dialog Content, Talk Initiative, and Gaze Behavior of a Social Robot on Trust, Acceptance, and Proximity


Appropriate human likeness for social robots is said to increase trust and acceptance. Whether this applies to human communication features like dialog initiative needs to be investigated. Dialog initiative could be unacceptable for a robot, depending on the dialog content. Hence, the presented study investigates how a social robot’s proactive verbal and non-verbal communication behavior affects trust and acceptance depending on dialog content and content presentation order. A laboratory study (n = 31) with a humanoid robot was conducted. Talk initiative (human/robot) and the robot’s gaze behavior (directed/random) were manipulated. Dialog content was alternated between a service task and small talk. The subject’s trust, acceptance and human-robot proximity were assessed. Whereas a directed gaze was perceived as more humanlike and was more accepted during small talk, no gaze preference for the service task emerged. There was no preference for who initiated the small talk but for the service task, robot initiative led to higher trust in the robot when the service task was the first interaction. Participant’s self-reported trust in the robot was associated with the distance they kept to the robot. Different gaze and proactive strategies seem to be efficient to foster trust and acceptance in social robots for different dialog contents and thus should be considered when designing interaction strategies for social robots.

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The co-author Matthias Kraus has received funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and Robert Bosch GmbH.

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Table 4 Self-developed items and manipulation checks

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Babel, F., Kraus, J., Miller, L. et al. Small Talk with a Robot? The Impact of Dialog Content, Talk Initiative, and Gaze Behavior of a Social Robot on Trust, Acceptance, and Proximity. Int J of Soc Robotics (2021).

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  • Human-robot interaction
  • Social robots
  • Proactivity
  • Trust
  • Acceptance
  • Proximity