Robot Bullying

Merel Keijsers | Christoph Bartneck

2017 – 2020

When the first autonomous robots were placed in (semi-) public spaces, the scientists monitoring them from a distance were confronted with a curious phenomenon: some people would hit, kick, verbally abuse, or otherwise taunt the robots without any provocation. Since the behaviour resembles social aggression more than vandalism, it was called “robot bullying”. To this day, we don’t quite know why people bully robots, which is problematic as they are playing a more and more prominent role in our everyday society. So for my PhD project, I looked into the psychological motivation behind robot bullying. More specifically, I studied the role of mind perception (i.e. to what extent do we perceive a robot to be able to think and feel) on moral standing of a robot, and people’s willingness to bully it.