Robots and Anthropomorphism

Margaret A. Boden

Our natural tendency to anthropomorphism, grounded in Theory of Mind and related psychological mechanisms, is crucial to our interactions with robots. Some relatively superficial aspects of robots (e.g. physical appearance) can trigger animistic, even empathetic, responses on the part of human beings. Other factors are more subtle, e.g. various aspects of the language (if any) used by the artifice, and/or of the thinking-processes apparently going on. Robotics (like AI in general) promises/threatens to alter how people think about themselves. Unlike AI programs, robots are physical entities moving around in a physical world. This makes them more humanlike in various ways. But physicality isn't the same thing as embodiment. For someone who wants to insist on a distinction between robots and humans, the fact that robots aren't living things is likely to be important.

Subjects: 17. Robotics

Submitted: Jan 17, 2006

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