Why Some Humanoid Faces Are Perceived More Positively Than Others: Effects of Human-Likeness and Task

Akanksha Prakash, Wendy A Rogers
International Journal of Social Robotics 2015 April 1, 7 (2): 309-331
Ample research in social psychology has highlighted the importance of the human face in human-human interactions. However, there is a less clear understanding of how a humanoid robot's face is perceived by humans. One of the primary goals of this study was to investigate how initial perceptions of robots are influenced by the extent of human-likeness of the robot's face, particularly when the robot is intended to provide assistance with tasks in the home that are traditionally carried out by humans. Moreover, although robots have the potential to help both younger and older adults, there is limited knowledge of whether the two age groups' perceptions differ. In this study, younger (N = 32) and older adults (N = 32) imagined interacting with a robot in four different task contexts and rated robot faces of varying levels of human-likeness. Participants were also interviewed to assess their reasons for particular preferences. This multi-method approach identified patterns of perceptions across different appearances as well as reasons that influence the formation of such perceptions. Overall, the results indicated that people's perceptions of robot faces vary as a function of robot human-likeness. People tended to over-generalize their understanding of humans to build expectations about a human-looking robot's behavior and capabilities. Additionally, preferences for humanoid robots depended on the task although younger and older adults differed in their preferences for certain humanoid appearances. The results of this study have implications both for advancing theoretical understanding of robot perceptions and for creating and applying guidelines for the design of robots.

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