Touched by a robot
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Human robot interaction is an active field of research. Current advances in technologies allow for more advanced robots to be developed. In human-robot interaction, or any interaction, trust is needed to let the interaction be successful. So research in trust between humans and robots is an essential part of human-robot interaction research. In interhuman interaction, touch is a powerful way of communicating. A well known effect is the so-called Midas touch. This is a neutral touch of one person to another person that elicits a sense of trust in- and more cooperative behaviour towards the person who did the touching. This is a phenomenon that has not yet been researched in human-robot interaction. That is what the research in this thesis is focussed on, whether or not the Midas touch is also present in human-robot interaction. If it is present, what are the effects and what type of trust is affected by the touch. To answer these questions an experiment was designed to measure the effect of a neutral touch of a robot on the cooperative behaviour and experienced trust of human participants (n=24) towards the robot. The experiment was set up in a library setting, where participants formed a team together with the robot. The robot gave instructions to the participants. These were normal library tasks, but the tasks also included increasingly odd and unusual tasks. The independent variable in the experiment was whether or not a participant was touched by the robot. The dependent variable was the number of instructions a participant refused to do. After the interaction participants were asked to complete a personality questionnaire and a questionnaire informing about their subjective trust experience of working with the robot. The personality questionnaire was conducted to see what personality traits were predictors for the effect of the touch. The experiment did not show a significant decrease in times a participant refused to complete a task (p=.219). So this hypothesis is not confirmed. Concerning the second hypothesis, about the trust experienced by the participants, none of the five factors of trust (Reliability, Competence, Understandability, Faith, and Personal Attachment) was significantly affected by the touch. But the Personal Attachment factor did show a strong indication that there is in fact an effect present. There was a trend (p=.057) that participants who were touched by the robot felt more personal attachment towards the robot compared to the participants who were not touched. It was not possible to determine the influence of personality on the touch condition, because of the limited number of participants it was not possible to do a statistical analysis on the individual personalities. Although the research did not show any significant results, it did show a clear indication that participants felt more personal attachment towards the robot when they were touched by the robot. The fact that there was no visible increase in cooperation could be because of the large effect personality has on the cooperative behaviour of humans. The questionnaire showed that personal attachment might be influenced by touch, but no such indication was found for the other elements of trust. The tasks in this experiment might not have relied enough on this factor of trust to have an effect. Other effects might also have played a role. Participants might have seen the robot as an authoritative figure to whom they had to listen. Future research has to confirm or deny these findings.