Nexi the robot helps researchers understand human trust

If someone asked you to clearly state why or why not do you trust a person, it can be a very difficult question. Trust, and the reason why we trust, are both very subjective measures. HumanS trust for different reasons, in different circumstances. And researchers have tried hard to pin a few definite sets of gestures or cues which affect human trust.

Researchers from Northeastern University and MIT Media Lab initially tried to find out such silent cues which are perceived as untrustworthy by humans. They performed an experiment which involved 86 students to converse with each other, either face-to-face or through a web chat session. These conversations were recorded as videos so as to keep track of the body language of the participants. Another similar experiment followed this.

But researchers couldn’t reach a definite conclusion. According to Psychology Professor David DeSteno, who was heading the research, “The problem was that iden­ti­fying the exact cues that matter is dif­fi­cult. Humans express many things at once.” And so, he and his team decided to take help of Nexi, the robot.

Rather than talking with each other, the participants in the experiment had to talk to Nexi this time. Nexi was controlled, at the back-end, by two experiments. The participants were asked to play a prisoner’s dilemma game with Nexi. The exprimenters controlling the robot’s movements made the robot make certain movements, such as leaning back or crossing its arms, cues which are typically associated with untrustworthy behaviour.

The result was that when the participants saw Nexi making such gestures, they didn’t trust it and held back their money. The researchers believe that this shows there is indeed a set of silent cues and gestures which humans use to gauge the trustworthiness of the other person.

This article was filed in Homepage > Robots. The story was spotted on northeastern.edu
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