Judging robot ability: How people form implicit and explicit impressions of robot competence

Nicholas Surdel, Yochanan E. Bigman, Xi Shen, Wen Ying Lee, Malte F. Jung, Melissa J. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Robots' proliferation throughout society offers many opportunities and conveniences. However, our ability to effectively employ these machines relies heavily on our perceptions of their competence. In six studies (N = 2,660), participants played a competitive game with a robot to learn about its capabilities. After the learning experience, we measured explicit and implicit competence impressions to investigate how they reflected the learning experience. We observed two distinct dissociations between people's implicit and explicit competence impressions. Firstly, explicit impressions were uniquely sensitive to oddball behaviors. Implicit impressions only incorporated unexpected behaviors when they were moderately prevalent. Secondly, after forming a strong initial impression, explicit, but not implicit, impression updating demonstrated a positivity bias (i.e., an overvaluation of competence information). These findings suggest that the same learning experience with a robot is expressed differently at the implicit versus explicit level. We discuss implications from a social cognitive perspective, and how this work may inform emerging work on psychology toward robots. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1309-1335
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2024


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