SoRaMI 2022

Social Robots as Means of Indirect Influence

Workshop @ICSR 2022

Florence, Italy

December 13, 2022

The workshop aims to explore ethical issues in employing social robots to deliberately influence users through means not easy to detect, e.g. nudges and persuasive attitudes. Recent investigations on both nudging (see Borenstein & Arkin 2015, 2016) and persuading by robots (Siegel et al. 2009; Ghazali et al. 2020) revealed aspects worth to be further inquired.

The conceptualization of nudges and persuasive attitudes, as well as their effectiveness, are at the core of behavioral and cognitive sciences’ interests. Insights from such disciplines are nowadays extensive and fine-grained enough to provide humans with powerful means to influence both behaviors and decisions made by peers. However, the relevance of such insights when human-robot interactions are on focus still needs a systematic investigation. In particular, the effectiveness and ethical implications of nudging and persuasive processes implemented by social robots toward human users deserve a more adequate analysis.

Evidence and considerations regarding such topics in human-human interactions do not necessarily apply to cases in which social robots step into the shoes of those who nudge or persuade humans.

This eventual asymmetry stimulates us to develop an interdisciplinary research agenda in which behavioral economics, cognitive sciences, behavioral sciences and social robotics are connected. Should indirect influences by social robots be expected to be as effective as when implemented by humans? Are there specific ethical challenges in place when social robots are on focus? Does utilizing social robots open new solutions to the ethical challenges associated with nudges and means of persuasion? What kind of new knowledge or epistemic influence, if any, is typical of indirect influences by social robots?

We deem the above questions to be relevant and we expect they will be discussed along with others in the workshop. Therefore, the ultimate aspiration of our workshop is to promote the constitution of an interdisciplinary community engaged in the development of the research agenda outlined.