A person’s gaze provides all kinds of information about that person’s intentions, goals, and decisions. But what about inanimate robots? They may not have intentions, but we humans can have a feeling or idea that they have – even if it’s against our best judgment.
This is already the case. The appearance of a human-like robot influences the decisions people make, in this case the decisions in a game against the robot. In one experiment, people made their decisions later and reacted later when the robot looked at them. The researchers can also see this altered behavior in the altered brain activity of the test subjects.
Don’t get distracted
More precisely, the alpha waves in the brain became more synchronized. This is a sign that people were trying to suppress their attention, in other words to avoid being distracted. Perhaps this is why people took longer to respond and make decisions.
Test participants who were unfamiliar with the robot’s gaze focused more on their own strategy, for example by repeating their successful movement. The people the bot looked at often followed the bot strategy. So they first manipulated the robot’s behavior.
In general, people seem to assume that a robot’s gaze contains a lot of social information, which then influences their behaviour, the researchers conclude.