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New communications? Human-robot interaction and the anthropocentric bias in communication

PhD Student: Navya Sharan

Robots have become one of the key technologies of the future due to exponential progress in fields like data science, artificial intelligence, and human-machine interaction. Robots are also progressively entering our homes and in social, supportive, and sophisticated roles. These robots, also known as social robots, are employed in areas ranging from healthcare to education, even including entertainment. Human-robot interaction (HRI), specifically as it concerns social robots represents a new frontier in communication research. Within communication research, there is an “anthropocentric” bias that assumes that the human-human communication as the gold standard and calibration point. However, this may not necessarily be the case. For instance, in comparison to human-human communication, communication with social robots may not be subject to cognitive and emotional biases. The aim of this research is to understand the theoretical underpinnings for the boundaries of communication in relation to the characteristics of non-human communication partners (i.e., social robots).

Specifically, this research evaluates the foundational idea of the Computers-Are-Social-Actors (CASA) paradigm, which proposes that humans see media agents (e.g., computers, mobile phones, robots, etc.) as social actors and mindlessly apply social scripts while interacting with them (Nass & Moon, 2000). Recent research has critiqued CASA for being somewhat outdated (Gambino et al., 2020). In a series of experimental studies, we will study whether the previously documented emergence of principles of human communication in human-machine interaction may be conditional on overlooked boundaries of communication that social robots can establish. Three key aspects will be investigated: (1) the effect of robot’s augmented cognitive capabilities on team perception, (2) the effect of robot’s emotion-reading capacities on socially desirable behavior, and (3) whether reciprocity depends on the robot’s embodiment and passing of time. The results of the proposed research may help to develop the CASA paradigm further and provide new insights into the boundaries of communication.

N.N. (Navya) Sharan

PhD Student

Prof. dr. J. (Jochen) Peter


Dr C.L. (Caroline) van Straten