We’re definitely living in the era of technological development. We’re coming up with more things than at any other time before, and we don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. And these advances in technology are made in more than a single field, with medicine and entertainment seeming to be the biggest focus.
The only problem we’re currently facing is that we don’t seem to progress the basics of the technology at the same rate we’re implementing it. But we’re still managing quite well. For example, we finally have robots. And not those tiny toys we used to have as kids, but actual, artificially intelligent, robots.
And of course, scientists have already started performing eerie tests on how we interact with them. One of the weirdest in recent memory, yet to be published, refers to how inappropriately touching robots leads to emotional responses and physiological arousal – that is physiological, not sexual.
Of course, the study was done under the best of intentions, in an attempt to figure out how limited human-robot interactions could be, at least for now. And it truly yielded some interesting results. It turns out that the more anthropomorphized the robots are, the more hesitant we are to touch them in inappropriate places.
For the study titled “Touching a Mechanical Body: Tactile Contact With Intimate Parts of a Human-Shaped Robot is Physiologically Arousing”, the team of researchers used a Nao humanoid robot to test how people would react to touching it in various places on its body.
The instructions were given by the robot itself, and the participants were in constant contact with a skin conductance sensor that monitored their physical state. In fact, so as for the participants not to suspect what the study was about, it was performed under false pretenses, with the robot saying that it was a vocabulary exercise.
Volunteers were instructed to touch a series of areas on the robot’s body ranging from low accessibility to high accessibility. High accessibility areas were considered places like the elbow or the shoulder, which the participants touched with no hesitation or emotional response.
However, as the areas became more and more personal, such as the butt or the groin, the participants seemed to have both a hesitant emotional response and to be physiologically aroused (meaning a general state of heightened awareness). And it’s all psychologically sound and easy to explain.
Just like we do with pets, if we add human features to something, if we anthropomorphize it, we tend to treat like a human being, to a certain measure. And since it would be awkward to touch a stranger’s butt or groin at his random behest, the participants felt awkward touching the robot.
Image source: Wikimedia