Do Humans Imitate Robots? An Investigation of Strategic Social Learning in Human-Robot Interaction

Debora Zanatto*, Massimiliano Patacchiola, Jeremy Goslin, Serge Thill, Angelo Cangelosi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

6 Citations (Scopus)


Theories on social learning indicate that imitative choices are usually performed whenever copying the others' behaviour has no additional cost. Here, we extended such investigations of social learning to Human-Robot Interaction (HRI). Participants played the Economic Investment Game with a robot banker while observing another robot player also investing in the robot banker. By manipulating the robot banker payoff, three conditions of unfairness were created: (1) unfair payoff for the participants, (2) unfair payoff for the robot player and (3) unfair payoff for both. Results showed that when the payoff was low for the participants and high for the robot player, participants invested more money in the robot banker than when both parties received a low return. Also, for this specific condition, participants' investments increased further with a more interactive robot player (defined as demonstrating increased attention, congruent movements and speech) This suggests that social and cognitive human competencies can be used and transposed to non-human agents. Further, imitation can potentially be extended to HRI, with interactivity likely having a key role in increasing this effect.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHRI '20: Proceedings of the 2020 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages457
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


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