Vulnerable Robots Positively Shape Human Conversational Dynamics in a Human-Robot Team


Social robots are becoming increasingly influential in shaping the behavior of humans with whom they interact. Here, we examine how the actions of a social robot can influence human-to-human communication, and not just robot–human communication, using groups of three humans and one robot playing 30 rounds of a collaborative game (n = 51 groups). We find that people in groups with a robot making vulnerable statements converse substantially more with each other, distribute their conversation somewhat more equally, and perceive their groups more positively compared to control groups with a robot that either makes neutral statements or no statements at the end of each round. Shifts in robot speech have the power not only to affect how people interact with robots, but also how people interact with each other, offering the prospect for modifying social interactions via the introduction of artificial agents into hybrid systems of humans and machines.



M. Traeger, S. Strohkorb Sebo, M. F. Jung, B. Scassellati, and N. A. Christakis, “Vulnerable Robots Positively Shape Human Conversational Dynamics in a Human-Robot Team,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 117 (12) 6370-6375 (Mar 2020) DOI:

Download Publication



Vulnerable Robots Pnas 117 12 Cover