Robots can manipulate people, show scientists

Interactive robots can emotionally manipulate humans, say scientists who found that people have a strong tendency to ascribe human-like attributes to machines.

Researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany asked 89 volunteers to interact with a human-like robot.

At the end of the interaction, the volunteers were asked to turn off the robot. However, the robot was programmed to beg volunteers to not do so. The robot also displayed bodily actions meant to bolster their request, Tech Xplore reported. Some volunteers served as controls — they were asked to turn off the robot but did not experience begging from the humanoid.

As many as 43 of the volunteers were confronted with the decision between complying with the researchers’ request, or the robot’s.

Thirteen volunteers chose to heed the robot’s wishes, and all the others took longer to turn off the robot than volunteers in the control group.

The findings indicate that humans have such a strong tendency to anthropomorphise robots that they can fall prey to emotional manipulation, scientists said.

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