I am a social scientist in the multidisciplinary field of human-machine communication. My research is motivated by my intrinsic drive to understanding human behavior and its underlying psychological and cognitive processes. Since computer technologies increasingly interact with us through complex and humanlike interfaces, the psychological aspects of our relationships with them are gaining an ever more vital role. Especially when such technologies present reliable cues of agency, such as social robots do, people treat these technologies as social interaction partners. Indeed, recent technologies provide increasingly sophisticated simulations of social agency and are designed explicitly to provoke social and emotional responses from their users. As these technologies are becoming technically feasible for application in real-world contexts, everyday living is transformed in unprecedented ways. To examine this transformation, my research is guided by the following questions:
- What processes underlie people’s social, emotional and cognitive responses to interactive technologies, especially social robots?
- To what extent do these processes in interactions between humans and socially interactive technology in general, and robots specifically, align with or divert from the processes during human-human interaction?
- What are ethical and societal implications of people’s responses to socially interactive technology, and social robots specifically? How should these implications be addressed?
- How can we influence technology design and policy to develop socially acceptable and beneficial robots?
By answering these questions we will learn more about how people socially interact with robots, and whether and how this is actually similar to how people socially interact with other humans. Additionally, we will also gain more insight into people’s social, emotional and cognitive processes during social interactions with different social actors, and how this knowledge may inform technology design and policy to develop socially acceptable and beneficial robots.