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Humans do empathize with robots

Last Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 00:25

Washington: Researchers at the University of Duisburg Essen in Germany have found that humans have similar brain function when shown images of affection and violence being inflicted on robots and humans.
Astrid Rosenthal-von der Putten, Nicole Kramer, and Matthias Brand of the University of Duisburg Essen conducted two studies.

In the first study, 40 participants watched videos of a small dinosaur-shaped robot that was treated in an affectionate or a violent way and measured their level of physiological arousal and asked for their emotional state directly after the videos.

Participants reported to feel more negative watching the robot being abused and showed higher arousal during the negative video.

The second study conducted in collaboration with the Erwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Essen, used functional magnetic-resonance imaging (fMRI), to investigate potential brain correlations of human-robot interaction in contrast to human-human interaction.

The 14 participants were presented videos showing a human, a robot and an inanimate object, again being treated in either an affectionate or in a violent way.

Affectionate interaction towards both the robot and the human, resulted in similar neural activation patterns in classic limbic structures, indicating that they elicit similar emotional reactions.

However, when comparing only the videos showing abusive behavior differences in neural activity suggested that participants show more negative empathetic concern for the human in the abuse condition.


First Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 00:25
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