Can Robots Manifest Personality?

In Can Robots Manifest Personality?: An Empirical Test of Personality Recognition, Social Responses, and Social Presence in Human-Robot Interaction, Lee et al. argue that “personality is an essential feature for creating socially interactive robots.” (p. 754).

Lee et al. focused on personality for three reasons: “very few studies on the personality of social robots exist,” “existing studies on robot personality are limited in that they are based on the assumption that robots are tools to be used rather than social companions to interact with,” and because they “believe that personality is a key element for creating socially interactive robots.” (p. 755). Within personality, they focus on the extroversion dimension, again for three specific reasons: “the extroversion dimension is a particularly important factor for interpersonal interaction,” “extraversion is the most accurately observable dimension among the Big Five Factors,” and extraversion “has been proven to be important in human-computer interaction.” (p. 755). For their study, they specifically asked “If people apply a personality-based social rule to a robot manifesting a personality, will they use the similarity attraction rule or the complementary attraction rule?” (p. 758). In their study, Lee et al. presented participants with AIBO, a “cute and cuddly dog” robot that is able to “walk, play soccer, sit, and lie down.” (p. 760). They programmed the robot to be more extroverted vs. introverted, and subsequently found that “participants could accurately recognize a robot’s personality based on its verbal and nonverbal behaviors” and that participants enjoyed interacting most with a robot that’s “personality was complementary to their own personalities.” (p. 754).

Overall, the authors’ justification for studying personality seems valid—it is easily operationalized, and quite important in human – human interaction. I was intrigued with the use of a dog robot, as opposed to a human; however, the article was published in 2006, so perhaps realistic human AI wasn’t a possibility at that time. Still, the support they used for studying personality doesn’t mention if there is a difference in human – human interaction vs. human – dog/ animal interaction. Are there differences in how we perceive and place importance on the personality of dogs vs. humans, living or artificial? How would these results hold up with human-like robots?

One thought on “Can Robots Manifest Personality?

  1. I think its really interesting that they focused on the personality of robots rather than just looking at them like tools. I think if we are moving towards a world with more AI, more robots replacing humans jobs, and just in general more robot-human interaction, I think it is crucial to our sense of humanity and how we interact with each other, that robots too have a sense of a personality. I don’t think we could be truly satisfied with robots overtaking many human roles if they lack a certain human component.

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