Top-Down Effects on Anthropomorphism of a Robot
Anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human mental states and characteristics to non-human entities, has been widely demonstrated to be cued automatically by certain bottom-up appearance and behavior features in machines. The potential for top-down effects to influence anthropomorphism remains underexplored—even as most people’s exposure to robots prominently features linguistic descriptions, e.g. in common discourse, public media, and product advertising. The results of this online experiment suggest that top-down linguistic cues increase anthropomorphism of a robot—and that these top-down cues may be as important of an influence as bottom-up cues. Moreover, these results suggest that this increased anthropomorphism is associated with increased unwarranted expectations of the robot’s capabilities and increased moral regard for the robot. As robots and other machines become more integrated into human society, it is more important to understand the extent to which top-down influences matter for our thought, talk, and treatment of robots.