Trust repair in human-agent teams: the effectiveness of explanations and expressing regret

E.S. Kox*, J.H. Kerstholt, T.F. Hueting, P.W. de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


The role of intelligent agents becomes more social as they are expected to act in direct interaction, involvement and/or interdependency with humans and other artificial entities, as in Human-Agent Teams (HAT). The highly interdependent and dynamic nature of teamwork demands correctly calibrated trust among team members. Trust violations are an inevitable aspect of the cycle of trust and since repairing damaged trust proves to be more difficult than building trust initially, effective trust repair strategies are needed to ensure durable and successful team performance. The aim of this study was to explore the effectiveness of different trust repair strategies from an intelligent agent by measuring the development of human trust and advice taking in a Human-Agent Teaming task. Data for this study were obtained using a task environment resembling a first-person shooter game. Participants carried out a mission in collaboration with their artificial team member. A trust violation was provoked when the agent failed to detect an approaching enemy. After this, the agent offered one of four trust repair strategies, composed of the apology components explanation and expression of regret (either one alone, both or neither). Our results indicated that expressing regret was crucial for effective trust repair. After trust declined due to the violation by the agent, trust only significantly recovered when an expression of regret was included in the apology. This effect was stronger when an explanation was added. In this context, the intelligent agent was the most effective in its attempt of rebuilding trust when it provided an apology that was both affective, and informational. Finally, the implications of our findings for the design and study of Human-Agent trust repair are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Number of pages20
JournalAutonomous agents and multi-agent systems
Issue number2
Early online date18 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Agent interaction
  • Apology
  • Collaboration
  • Competence
  • Human
  • Intelligent agents
  • Social abilities
  • Trust
  • Trust repair
  • UT-Hybrid-D

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