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Bridging the mechanical and the human mind: spontaneous mimicry of a physically present android.

  • Author(s): Hofree, Galit
  • Ruvolo, Paul
  • Bartlett, Marian Stewart
  • Winkielman, Piotr
  • et al.
Abstract

The spontaneous mimicry of others' emotional facial expressions constitutes a rudimentary form of empathy and facilitates social understanding. Here, we show that human participants spontaneously match facial expressions of an android physically present in the room with them. This mimicry occurs even though these participants find the android unsettling and are fully aware that it lacks intentionality. Interestingly, a video of that same android elicits weaker mimicry reactions, occurring only in participants who find the android "humanlike." These findings suggest that spontaneous mimicry depends on the salience of humanlike features highlighted by face-to-face contact, emphasizing the role of presence in human-robot interaction. Further, the findings suggest that mimicry of androids can dissociate from knowledge of artificiality and experienced emotional unease. These findings have implications for theoretical debates about the mechanisms of imitation. They also inform creation of future robots that effectively build rapport and engagement with their human users.

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