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Who's Trustworthy? A Robot Can Help Teach Us
New York Times
(09/10/12) Tara Parker-Pope
Researchers at Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cornell University say they have found specific behaviors that seem to warn the human brain that another person cannot be trusted. First, the researchers filmed students interacting with other students they had never met in a game designed to elicit untrustworthy behavior. The researchers found that cues such as leaning away from someone, crossing arms in a blocking fashion, rubbing the hands together, and touching oneself on the face were indicators of untrustworthy behavior. "The more you saw someone do this, the more intuition you had that they would be less trustworthy," says Northeastern professor David DeSteno. The researchers then set up the same experiment with students playing the game with a friendly-faced robot. Some of the robots did not perform the untrustworthy cues while others did, and the students rated them as more untrustworthy. "It makes no sense to ascribe intentions to a robot, but it appears we have certain postures and gestures that we interpret in certain ways," says Cornell professor Robert H. Frank. The study suggests there could be an evolutionary benefit to cooperation, and to being able to identify untrustworthy people.
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