Peer pressure is something that we all have to put up with throughout our lives, but it seems that in the future when robots become more prevalent in our homes and society, it appears that there could be a risk of what researchers are calling “robot influence”, and one that parents need to be concerned about.
In a research done at the University of Plymouth, they found that children were more susceptible to being swayed by the “opinions” of robots. Participants in the study were asked to do a test called the Asch Paradigm (a test in conformity) in which they were tasked to find two lines that matched up in terms of length.
When the children were left alone in the room, the researchers found that they scored an average of 87% in the test, but when robots were introduced, the scores dropped to 75% on average, and that of the wrong answers, almost two-thirds matched the opinions offered by the robots.
According to Tony Belpaeme, a professor of robotics, “People often follow the opinions of others and we’ve known for a long time that it is hard to resist taking over views and opinions of people around us. We know this as conformity. But as robots will soon be found in the home and the workplace, we were wondering if people would conform to robots.” The test is hardly conclusive as there are certain factors that could have influenced the answers as well, but it is rather worrying, so much so that perhaps we need safeguards against this in the future.