Photo: NortheasternCOS via YouTube
When you meet someone new, how do you determine whether you want to conduct business, or even form a relationship with them?Supposedly, in only takes a few minutes — and scientists have been trying to determine these certain cues for years.
The thing is, in real life, people are fidgety. They are not stoic. They typically display a set of movements while conversing with others.
And Northeastern University psychology professor David DeSteno, alongside Cynthia Breazeal from MIT’s Media Lab and Robert Frank and David Pizarro from Cornell University know this. For their study, they enlisted the help of Nexi, “a humanoid social robot that afforded the team an important benefit — they could control all its movements perfectly,” says the study published in the Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
In this video, Nexi is speaking to a participant in a very calm, human voice — not at all like the robotic voice most of us likely conjure in our heads.
Nexi asks the participant, “Why don’t you tell me about where you’re from?” and even blinks and moves his arms around while he’s speaking. At certain times, he puts his hands together and holds them in front of him, while nodding and listening to the participant’s answer.
Nexi converses with each participant for 10 minutes at a time.
The researchers found that when Nexi showed certain “untrustworthy cues,” the participants thought that the robot would “cheat them and adjusted their financial decisions accordingly.”
“Certain nonverbal gestures trigger emotional reactions we’re not consciously aware of, and these reactions are enormously important for understanding how interpersonal relationships develop,” Frank said. “The fact that a robot can trigger the same reactions confirms the mechanistic nature of many of the forces that influence human interaction.”
The results also proved that humans not only discerned these exact cues from other people, but they had the same feeling toward technological entities with the same movements.
“This is a very exciting result that showcases how social robots can be used to gain important insights about human behaviour,” said Cynthia Breazeal of MIT’s Media Lab. “This also has fascinating implications for the design of future robots that interact and work alongside people as partners.”
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