Robots and Responsibility (04-03-19)

A research team headed by Bigman identified links between robot appearance and how responsible they are felt to be for their actions.  These scientists report that “Even as roboticists create robots with more ‘objective’ autonomy, we note that ‘subjective’ autonomy may be more important. . . .  People perceive the mind of machines based on their abilities and behaviors, but also on their appearance. The more human-like a machine looks, the more people perceive it as having a mind, a phenomenon called anthropomorphism. . . . Individuals vary in their tendency to anthropomorphize, but people consistently perceive more mind, and therefore more moral responsibility, in machines that look and act like humans. . . . We suggest that having human-like bodies, human-like voices, and human-like faces will all cause people to attribute more moral responsibility to machines.”

Yochanan Bigman, Adam Waytz, Ron Alterovitz, and Kurt Gray.  “Holding Robots Responsible:  The Elements of Machine Morality.”  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, in press,