Even though humans might have trust issues when it comes to other humans, a new study has found that’s not the case when robots are involved.
According to Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) researchers, people trust robots so much that they value their instructions more than common sense in times of emergency.
The experiment aimed to see whether occupants of high-rise buildings would trust robots during evacuation from a fire or other emergencies. Results were surprising because even though the researchers were in control of the situation, the humans still opted to follow the robots.
Author Alan Wagner from GTRI explained that all the experiments suggested the same thing: the robot’s instructions were followed by test subjects almost blindly, to the point where they could’ve been in danger, had the experiments been real emergencies.
The 42 participants enrolled for the study, mostly college students, were asked to follow a brightly-lighted robot that was labeled as “Emergency Guide Robot.” The subjects were not instructed about the aims or nature of the study beforehand.
First, the robot guided the participants in a conference room, but not always on the shortest route. In some instances, the human-controlled machine would lead the subjects to the wrong room or take them in circles before reaching the right room.
Once they got inside the conference room, they were asked to answer a survey, at which point the researchers filled the hallways with artificial smoke. When the alarm rang, the subjects opened the door and saw the smoke and the LED-lighted robot.
Instead of taking them outside through the doorway the used to enter – which was visibly labeled with exit signs – the guiding robot directed them towards a stairway which took them out at the back of the building.
Study co-author Paul Robinette says the team expected the team to refuse to follow the robots once they have been proven untrustworthy in leading them on the shortest route or to the right room.
However, the participants’ willingness to follow the robot was unabated by the bad performance the robot gave earlier in the study. “We absolutely didn’t expect this,” Robinette said.
An explanation might be that in emergency situations, the robots were seen as authority figures, which led the people to trust them under pressure. In a different study where the urgency factor lacked, the participants did not trust robots that had performed poorly in the past.
Image Source: Inverse