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Robots Help in Study of Trust

An innovative research design uses robots to determine how humans decide to trust strangers — and if those decisions are accurate.

Northeastern University psychology professor David DeSteno and his colleagues are examining whether nonverbal cues and gestures could affect our trustworthiness judgments.

“People tend to mimic each other’s body language,” said DeSteno, “which might help them develop intuitions about what other people are feeling — intuitions about whether they’ll treat them fairly.”

To test the hypothesis, researchers had test subjects interact with the social robot, Nexi, in an attempt to judge her trustworthiness.

Unbeknownst to participants, Nexi has been programmed to make gestures while speaking with selected participants — gestures that the team hypothesizes could determine whether or not she’s deemed trustworthy.

“Using a humanoid robot whose every expression and gesture we can control will allow us to better identify the exact cues and psychological processes that underlie humans’ ability to accurately predict if a stranger is trustworthy,” said DeSteno.

During the first part of the experiment, Nexi makes small talk with her human counterpart for 10 minutes, asking and answering questions about topics such as traveling, where they are from and what they like most about living in Boston.

“The goal was to simulate a normal conversation with accompanying movements to see what the mind would intuitively glean about the trustworthiness of another,” said DeSteno.

The participants then play an economic game called “Give Some,” which asks them to determine how much money Nexi might give them at the expense of her individual profit.

Simultaneously, they decide how much, if any, they’ll give to Nexi. The rules of the game allow for two distinct outcomes: higher individual profit for one and loss for the other, or relatively smaller and equal profits for both partners.

“Trust might not be determined by one isolated gesture, but rather a ‘dance’ that happens between the strangers, which leads them to trust or not trust the other,” said DeSteno, who, with his colleagues, will continue testing their theories by seeing if Nexi can be taught to predict the trustworthiness of human partners.

Source: Northeastern University

Robots Help in Study of Trust

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Robots Help in Study of Trust. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/07/12/robots-help-in-study-of-trust/15473.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.