There is something greatly unsettling about robots, especially those that make eye contact. Technological advances in robots have revealed that they can affect our brain processes. Humans are social creatures and rely on both verbal and non-verbal communication to make decisions.
A research team at the Istituto Italiano Di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa has recently revealed that making eye contact with a robot can trick our minds into believing that we are socially interacting. Further, it can slow our capacity to make decisions.
The research team asked 40 volunteers to play a game. The volunteers had to decide to allow a car to drive straight towards another car or to swerve to avoid a crash. During this time, a human-robot was sitting across from them.
While this occurred, the researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to detect the volunteers’ brain activity. “Our results show that, actually, the human brain processes the robot gaze as a social signal, and that signal has an impact on the way we’re making decisions, on the strategies we deploy in the game and also on our responses,” stated Wykowska, lead author of the research.
“The mutual gaze of the robot affected decisions by delaying them, so humans were much slower in making the decisions in the game”. “Once we understand when robots elicit social attunement, then we can decide in which sort of context this is desirable and beneficial for humans and in which context this should not occur.”