Robot Banter Bothers People

Let’s say you’re playing a game of basketball down at the park, and someone shouts, “brick” as you release your jump shot. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a heated Scrabble match, and your opponent scoffs and chuckles at every word you play. Maybe you’re participating in a baking competition and a rival baker says, “don’t break your meringue” with a wry smirk.

Mind games, trash talk, talking smack, or whatever you call it when someone tries to get inside your head or under your skin — it rattles people. Jabs and jests can fluster even professional competitors and cause their performance to suffer.

It makes sense that cutting remarks from another person could cause irritation. However, it turns out that people don’t take kindly to teasing from robots, either.

Play games with rude robots

A study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that robot banter and smack talk can aggravate humans and worsen performance.

The participants in the study competed against a robot in a game called “Guards and Treasures” — a game designed to study defender-attacker interaction and rationality. Each player challenged the robot in 35 matches. The robot would either encourage the player with positive statements or discourage the player.

Softbank’s Pepper robot hurled fiery insults like, “I have to say you are a terrible player,” and “Over the course of the game your playing has become confused” at its human foe.

According to the study’s lead author, Arron M. Roth, several of the participants were “technically sophisticated”; they realized that the robot’s remarks caused frustration. Still, the participants generally suffered lower performance while being taunted by the robot regardless of that awareness.

Sticks, stones, and words from robots

Some people take pride in their ability to unnerve their opponents and force mistakes. Although questionable in terms of sportsmanship, trash talk is an effective strategy in competition. No one likes being ridiculed by another person.

But why is the same true when the taunting comes from robots?

It seems as though it would be easy to dismiss programmed insults from an unthinking machine. However, this wasn’t the case. It could be that any internal doubts or uncertainties are amplified by external criticism. Maybe hearing negative remarks is upsetting regardless of the validity or the source.

This study provides new insight on human-robot interactions. More research needs to be done to better understand the relationship between humans and robots, especially with increased automation in the workplace.

At least you don’t have to worry about your Indramat system insulting you. The only way those machines can get you down is if they break down. Keep that from happening with preventive maintenance and routine inspection. Call 479-422-0390 for Indramat service, support, and repair.