Persuasive Robotics: Factors influencing compliance and acquiescence

This project explores the extent to which socially capable humanoid robots have the potential to influence human belief, perception and behavior. We conducted a study at the Boston Museum of Science with over 300 passers-by to examine the influence of different factors on robot persuasion. The results of this study indicate that the gender the robot is introduced as, subject-gender, touch, interpersonal distance, and perceived robot autonomy significantly impact the interaction between human and robot and must be taken into consideration when designing sociable robots.

The experiment took place in the Museum of Science in Boston and consisted of a five minute interaction between subjects and the robot, during which the robot made a verbal persuasive appeal, requesting a donation to support technology distribution. The amount of money donated was used to measure the visitor’s compliance. Various aspects of the robot’s appearance and behavior were varied, in order to test what effect these had on the robot’s ability to solicit donations. The gender of the robot was set to be either male or female by changing the voice of an androgynous looking robot. The robot’s perceived autonomy was modified: subjects were led to believe that the robot was either autonomous or completely controlled by a human operator. In some cases, the robot would attempt to shake the subject’s hand after the interaction, before the donation request. Finally, the interpersonal distance between human and robot was manipulated by moving the subject’s designated standing position.

Findings showed that men were more likely to donate money to the female robot, while women showed little preference. Subjects also tended to rate the robot of the opposite sex as more credible, trustworthy, and engaging. In the case of trust and engagement the effect was much stronger between male subjects and the female robot. These results demonstrate the importance of considering robot and human gender in the design of HRI. Group presence was another highly predictive factor: people were more likely to donate to the robot if other humans saw them shake the robots hand.


How can we design more persuasive robots?