Tokyo: A team of Japanese researchers has found the first neurophysiological evidence of humans' ability to empathise with robots in perceived pain, highlighting the difference in human empathy toward other humans and robots.
Empathy is a basic human ability where we often feel empathy toward and console others in distress.
Since robots are becoming increasingly popular and common in our daily lives, it is necessary to understand our interaction with robots in social situations, the authors noted.
The team from Toyohashi University of Technology in collaboration with researchers at Kyoto University in Japan performed electroencephalography (EEG) in 15 healthy adults who were observing pictures of either a human or robotic hand in painful or non-painful situations.
Event-related brain potentials for empathy toward humanoid robots in perceived pain were similar to those for empathy toward humans in pain.
The results suggest that humans empathise with humanoid robots in a similar fashion as they do with other humans.
“However, the beginning of the top-down process of empathy is weaker for empathy toward robots than toward humans. It may be caused by humans' inability in taking a robot's perspective,” the authors explained.
It is reasonable that we cannot take the perspective of robots because their body and mind (if it exists) are very different from ours.
The researchers are now trying to manipulate humans' perspective taking of robots in a further study that will contribute to the development of human-friendly robots whom we feel sympathy for and comfortable with.
The paper appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.