The Effect of Perceived Humanness in Non-Human Agents on Social Facilitation in a Vigilance Task

Melissa Smith

Major Professor: Eva Wiese, PhD, CHSSWeb Design 3

Committee Members: Matthew Peterson, Patrick McKnight

David King Hall, #2073A Arch Lab Conference Room
April 22, 2016, 10:30 AM to 07:30 AM


One of the biggest challenges for social robotics is identifying a set of robot features that help improve cognitive performance in human-robot interaction (HRI). Social facilitation is the concept that a person’s performance on a task differs when someone else is present, even if they observer is merely present and not interacting with the person. Performance on vigilance tasks, which are highly cognitive in nature, has been shown to be positively impacted by the presence of other humans. This series of studies examines whether non-human robot agents of varying degrees of humanness can produce a social facilitation effect during a social vigilance task. It was hypothesized that performance with the agents would linearly improve with increasing levels of humanness within the agents, as increased humanness would increase the likelihood of a social facilitation effect. After conducting a social vigilance task with 5 agents of varying levels of humanness, it was found that a social facilitation effect was found for all the agents except the humanoid agent (comprised of a 70% human/30% robot mix), which also resulted in a significant vigilance decrement. Follow-up experiments tested hypotheses relating to attentional capture due to delayed disengagement, resource drain due to cognitive conflict, and attentional capture due to novelty to determine reasons for the unique impact of the humanoid agent, all of which contribute unique psychological and design implications for future social robotics work.