The interactive effects of robot anthropomorphism and robot ability on perceived threat and support for robotics research
The present research examines how a robot’s physical anthropomorphism interacts with perceived ability of robots to impact the level of realistic and identity threat that people perceive from robots and how it affects their support for robotics research. Experimental data revealed that participants perceived robots to be significantly more threatening to humans after watching a video of an android that could allegedly outperform humans on various physical and mental tasks relative to a humanoid robot that could do the same. However, when participants were not provided with information about a new generation of robots’ ability relative to humans, then no significant differences were found in perceived threat following exposure to either the android or humanoid robots. Similarly, participants also expressed less support for robotics research after seeing an android relative to a humanoid robot outperform humans. However, when provided with no information about robots’ ability relative to humans, then participants showed marginally decreased support for robotics research following exposure to the humanoid relative to the android robot. Taken together, these findings suggest that very human like robots can not only be perceived as a realistic threat to human jobs, safety, and resources, but can also be seen as a threat to human identity and uniqueness, especially if such robots also outperform humans. We also demonstrate the potential downside of such robots to the public’s willingness to support and fund robotics research.