Mind(sets) over machine? The influence of implicit self-theories in human-robot interaction.
Type of content
Implicit self-theory asserts that an individual’s underlying beliefs about whether self-attributes (e.g., personality and intelligence) are fixed (entity theory) or mutable (incremental theory) causally affect motivation and behavior—with the most profound effects emerging in situations that involve challenges and setbacks. In support of this notion, several lines of research suggest that these beliefs hold some influence over people’s perception and behavior in diverse domains such as education, brand acceptance, and financial decision-making, among others. It is, however, presently unknown whether implicit self-theories exert such influence on people’s experiences of social robots. To address this gap, this research tested, in a series of three studies, the proposition that implicit self-theories represent an important variable, that influences the manner in which one perceives and responds to social robots. Study 1 provided the first evidence that an individual’s implicit self-theory orientation influences their perception of emerging social robots developed for everyday use. In particular, those endorsing more of an entity theory expressed greater robot anxiety than those endorsing more of an incremental theory. This finding held even when controlling for a range of covariate influences. In addition, incremental theorists, compared to entity theorists responded more favorably to social robots in general. Study 2 built on and substantively extended the findings of Study 1 by examining the effects of implicit self-theories on people’s responses to a robot that praised them for ability (i.e., intelligence), or for effort (i.e., hard work), after completing a difficult task. Results revealed that entity theorists evaluated a robot that delivered ability praise as more likable and intelligent than one that delivered effort praise. However, incremental theorists were unaffected by either praise type and rated the robot favorably regardless of the praise it delivered. Study 3, expanded the findings of Studies 1 and 2 to investigate the impact of implicit self-theories on people’s responses to a robot that defeats human beings in a general knowledge quiz game. Results showed that incremental theorists, compared to entity theorists were more likely to indicate an interest in playing against the robot after imagining losing to it. Whereas entity theorists rated such robots as presenting more identity and realistic threats. Together, these studies extend and enrich the Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) literature by establishing implicit self-theories as an important and meaningful variable for which to advance the understanding of HRI today. In so doing, this research attempts to respond to the ever-increasing demand for research on the psychological variables that underlie how people perceive and interact with robots—which, in many ways, has special urgency given the inexorable rise of AI and robotics in the social domain of everyday experience. In consequence, findings may contribute to the design of new or improved social robots that can reflect or shape beliefs, and, hence, build a greater sense of identification and trust with the intended human user.