I, Robot: How Human Appearance and Mind Attribution Relate to the Perceived Danger of Robots

Barbara C.N. Müller*, Xin Gao, Sari R.R. Nijssen, Tom G.E. Damen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Social robots become increasingly human-like in appearance and behaviour. However, a large body of research shows that these robots tend to elicit negative feelings of eeriness, danger, and threat. In the present study, we explored whether and how human-like appearance and mind-attribution contribute to these negative feelings and clarified possible underlying mechanisms. Participants were presented with pictures of mechanical, humanoid, and android robots, and physical anthropomorphism (Studies 1–3), attribution of mind perception of agency and experience (Studies 2 and 3), threat to human–machine distinctiveness, and damage to humans and their identity were assessed for all three robot types. Replicating earlier research, human–machine distinctiveness mediated the influence of anthropomorphic appearance on the perceived damage for humans and their identity, and this mediation was due to anthropomorphic appearance of the robot. Perceived agency and experience did not show similar mediating effects on human–machine distinctiveness, but a positive relation with perceived damage for humans and their identity. Possible explanations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Robotics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2020


  • Human/robot interaction
  • Mind perception
  • Need for distinctiveness
  • Uncanny valley

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