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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 31;9(12):e114207. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114207. eCollection 2014.

Emotion attribution to a non-humanoid robot in different social situations.

Author information

Hungarian Academy of Sciences - Eötvös Loránd University, Comparative Ethology Research Group, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, Budapest, 1117, Hungary.
MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, Budapest 1117, Hungary.
Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, Budapest, 1117, Hungary.
Department of Mechatronics, Optics and Information Engineering, University of Technology and Economics, Bertalan Lajos utca 4-6, Budapest, 1111, Hungary; MTA-BME Control Research Group, Bertalan Lajos utca 4-6, Budapest, 1111, Hungary.


In the last few years there was an increasing interest in building companion robots that interact in a socially acceptable way with humans. In order to interact in a meaningful way a robot has to convey intentionality and emotions of some sort in order to increase believability. We suggest that human-robot interaction should be considered as a specific form of inter-specific interaction and that human-animal interaction can provide a useful biological model for designing social robots. Dogs can provide a promising biological model since during the domestication process dogs were able to adapt to the human environment and to participate in complex social interactions. In this observational study we propose to design emotionally expressive behaviour of robots using the behaviour of dogs as inspiration and to test these dog-inspired robots with humans in inter-specific context. In two experiments (wizard-of-oz scenarios) we examined humans' ability to recognize two basic and a secondary emotion expressed by a robot. In Experiment 1 we provided our companion robot with two kinds of emotional behaviour ("happiness" and "fear"), and studied whether people attribute the appropriate emotion to the robot, and interact with it accordingly. In Experiment 2 we investigated whether participants tend to attribute guilty behaviour to a robot in a relevant context by examining whether relying on the robot's greeting behaviour human participants can detect if the robot transgressed a predetermined rule. Results of Experiment 1 showed that people readily attribute emotions to a social robot and interact with it in accordance with the expressed emotional behaviour. Results of Experiment 2 showed that people are able to recognize if the robot transgressed on the basis of its greeting behaviour. In summary, our findings showed that dog-inspired behaviour is a suitable medium for making people attribute emotional states to a non-humanoid robot.

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