Robots at Work: People Prefer—and Forgive—Service Robots With Perceived Feelings

Kai Chi Yam*, Yochanan E. Bigman, Pok Man Tang, Remus Ilies, David De Cremer, Harold Soh, Kurt Gray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Organizations are increasingly relying on service robots to improve efficiency, but these robots often make mistakes, which can aggravate customers and negatively affect organizations. How can organizations mitigate the frontline impact of these robotic blunders? Drawing from theories of anthropomorphism and mind perception, we propose that people evaluate service robots more positively when they are anthropomorphized and seem more humanlike—capable of both agency (the ability to think) and experience (the ability to feel). We further propose that in the face of robot service failures, increased perceptions of experience should attenuate the negative effects of service failures, whereas increased perceptions of agency should amplify the negative effects of service failures on customer satisfaction. In a field study conducted in the world’s first robot-staffed hotel (Study 1), we find that anthropomorphism generally leads to higher customer satisfaction and that perceived experience, but not agency, mediates this effect. Perceived experience (but not agency) also interacts with robot service failures to predict customer satisfaction such that high levels of perceived experience attenuate the negative impacts of service failures on customer satisfaction. We replicate these results in a lab experiment with a service robot (Study 2). Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1557-1572
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • Anthropomorphism
  • Mind perception
  • Service robots


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