Man or woman? Humans clearly prefer a gender when it comes to service robots

The age of robots begins: some restaurants and hotels are already preparing for the revolution when artificial intelligence takes over the service. On this train, whole new questions arise: Does it matter whether a robot appears male or female? Should the AI ​​be more talkative or reserved? Or: Is a display enough – or should the robot have a face?

Which gender has the edge as a service robot?

179 subjects experienced four fictitious scenarios

The American researcher Soobin Seo wanted to know whether humans transfer gender stereotypes to human-like machines. How do customers perceive male and female robots? What are you more comfortable with? She invited 179 test subjects to Washington State University and confronted them with four fictitious scenarios in service situations.

In one scene, a male-looking android named Alex greeted the “guests”; in another, a female robot who introduced herself as “Sara” turned to them. Both had faces and voices, sometimes male, sometimes female. In the remaining two scenarios, the faces had disappeared, with interactive screens taking over the communication instead.

Sara was the subjects’ clear favorite

The study participants shared their feelings when interacting with the different robots. »Sara« was by far the best in the ratings. All participants found them particularly enjoyable and satisfying. For the faceless robots, the difference was less obvious, but it was there. “People tend to feel more comfortable when they are served by women because there are gender stereotypes in relation to service roles,” Seo concludes from her experiment. And: The more human-like, the stronger the effect, although everyone knows that machines actually have no gender.

The researcher recommends exploring the psychological relationship between humans and machines in more detail and considering the results when service robots increasingly enter the market. So that the experience is as pleasant as possible.


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