Stop looking at me!

Artificial intelligence may be the most important development in IT, but when it comes to robots, particularly those robots that stare, women are not totally on board with the idea.

Dr. Chris Stanton, a roboticist at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development in Western Sydney University has found that women are more cautious than men in their interactions with artificially intelligent (AI) devices.  In particular, “women became noticeably uncomfortable and more guarded when the robot stared at them,” Dr. Stanton noted. Men, on the other hand, were unaffected by robot staring.

Dr. Stanton also noted that in experiments in which the staring robot disagreed with the participant’s response, “women stuck with their gut instincts and did not change their answer despite coercion by the robot.”

Stanton’s research could have important implications for a society that will increasingly rely on human-robot collaboration for a number of daily activities, such as education, child care, work, and medical services. “Social robots must be capable of fostering the trust and confidence of people they interact with,” Stanton said.

Clearly, more research needs to be done to understand why men and women respond differently to staring robots. One might speculate that evolution has programmed women, who are physically weaker than men and have the responsibility of caring for fragile offspring, to be suspicious of anything that might appear predatory.  Or maybe women suspect that Asimov’s Rules of Robotics are not as inviolable as they might appear to be.