Mindless Robots get Bullied
Humans recognise and respond to robots as social agents, to such extent that they occasionally attempt to bully a robot. The current paper investigates whether aggressive behaviour directed towards robots is influenced by the same social processes that guide human bullying behaviour. More specifically, it measured the effects of dehumanisation primes and anthropomorphic qualities of the robot on participants’ verbal abuse of a virtual robotic agents. Contrary to previous findings in human-human interaction, priming participants with power did not result in less mind attribution. However, evidence for dehumanisation was still found, as the less mind participants attributed to the robot, the more aggressive responses they gave. In the main study this effect was moderated by the manipulations of power and robot anthropomorphism; the low anthropomorphic robot in the power prime condition endured significantly less abuse, and mind attribution remained a significant predictor for verbal aggression in all conditions save the low anthropomorphic robot with no prime. It is concluded that dehumanisation occurs in human-robot interaction and that like in human-human interaction, it is linked to aggressive behaviour. Moreover, it is argued that this dehumanisation is different from anthropomorphism as well as human-human dehumanisation, since anthropomorphism itself did not predict aggressive behaviour and dehumanisation of robots was not influenced by primes that have been established in human-human dehumanisation research.