Children conform, adults resist: A robot group induced peer pressure on normative social conformity

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Science Robotics  15 Aug 2018:
Vol. 3, Issue 21, eaat7111
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aat7111

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  • Robots' Potential Social Influence on Conformity among Children
    • Sean D Young, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, University of California Institute for Prediction Technology (UCIPT)/University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

    The Vollmer et al (2018) study raises an interesting question about the power of robots' social influence on humans. The authors conclude that robots do not significantly influence adults' responses within the Asch Paradigm, but that children are susceptible to being peer-pressured by robots. One alternative explanation for this effect is that the children in the study perceived the robots to be more knowledgeable than them. In other words, rather than being peer pressured by the robots to conform with an incorrect response, the children may have believed the robots' responses were more accurate than their own. For example, while driving home in traffic someone might decide to follow Google Maps' recommendation instead of her own intuition or experience about the best route. This is a rational behavior (rather than one where she was peer pressured by Google Maps) because she trusts that Google Maps has greater knowledge and experience than her in how to most efficiently avoid traffic. Similarly, in the current digital age, children are quickly learning that artificial intelligence-based technologies often have more knowledge and experience than they do, making it understandable that children in the study would have responded differently based on whether and how a robot responded first. The authors reported including a questionnaire to assess robots' abilities in the adult studies. If this questionnaire was also provided to the children and assessed...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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