Dominance is a key aspect of interpersonal relationships. To what extent do nonverbal indicators related to dominance status translate to a nonanthropomorphic robot? An experiment (N = 25) addressed whether a mobile robot's motion style can influence people's perceptions of its status. Using concepts from improv theater literature, we developed two motion styles across three scenarios (robot makes lateral motions, approaches, and departs) to communicate a robot's dominance status through nonverbal expression. In agreement with the literature, participants described a motion style that was fast, in the foreground, and more animated as higher status than a motion style that was slow, in the periphery, and less animated. Participants used fewer negative emotion words to describe the robot with the purportedly high-status movements versus the purportedly low-status movements, but used more negative emotion words to describe the robot when it made departing motions that occurred in the same style. This result provides evidence that guidelines from improvisational theater for using nonverbal expression to perform interpersonal status can be applied to influence perception of a nonanthropomorphic robot's status, thus suggesting that useful models for more complicated behaviors might similarly be derived from performance literature and theory.
Li, J. J., Cuadra, A., Mok, B., Reeves, B., Kaye, J., & Ju, W. (2019). Communicating Dominance in a Nonanthropomorphic Robot Using Locomotion. ACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction, 8(1), . https://doi.org/10.1145/3310357