Research Statement

I am a communication scientist in the multidisciplinary field of human-robot interaction. 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. Recent technologies, such as social robots, 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 direction to develop socially acceptable robots that benefit society?

Me writing withoutMy research will manifest the transformation of everyday living with the increase of interactive technologies, and social robots specifically. People tend to ascribe humanlike properties to social robots, from mental states to social and moral standing. If human social cognition is so inclusive that virtually all its components are applicable to robots, robots may soon be included in personal relationship practices and become eligible for moral and legal protection.

To grapple with these potentially radical prospects we need detailed insights into the scope and limits of people’s humanlike treatment of robots. Understanding our human tendency to anthropomorphize non-living objects on a social, emotional and cognitive level reveals to what extend robots are regarded as social beings. This, in turn, has profound ethical and societal implications for our social interactions with these systems.

The aim of my research is to inform both design considerations and policy recommendations about the future standing of robots in society. Research in real-world contexts and the involvement of end-users in the initial stages of product development ensures a better understanding of the cultural and social contexts of acceptance and enables developers to apply this gained knowledge into their designs