Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Ethical implications of artificial expression of emotion by social robots in assistive contexts

van Maris, Anouk

Ethical implications of artificial expression of emotion by social robots in assistive contexts Thumbnail



This research investigated whether Artificial Expression of Emotion (AEE) by a social robot can lead to emotional deception and emotional attachment. The use of AEE can be beneficial, as it may encourage engagement, and can help to build trust in the robot. However, it may also lead to misplaced trust and false expectations of the robot’s abilities, which in turn could lead to mental or physical harm. Even though the literature has raised ethical issues in the form of emotional deception and emotional attachment, research regarding potential negative consequences of these concerns is limited. As such, the impact of AEE was considered in this research. Knowledge on potential negative consequences is essential, as social robots are likely to become increasing prevalent in supporting assistive tasks for people who are vulnerable.

The impact of AEE was investigated through surveys, lab-based experiments and longitudinal field studies. Participants’ opinion of the robot, acceptance of the robot and attachment to the robot, and physiological responses to the robot were investigated. Findings indicate that emotional deception and emotional attachment may have occurred, although their impact on users was low. These findings contributed to the development of a framework, that could help developers and producers of future social robots design social robot behaviours, with a view to limit negative consequences where possible.

This work contributes to the area of social robot ethics, highlighting issues for socially assistive robots based on findings from a range of user studies. Furthermore, a novel approach for conducting research in determining people’s attitudes and perspectives on ethical issues is presented, which allows people to make more informed decisions while completing surveys. In addition, this research provides rich insights in user experience of socially assistive robots, which contributes to our understanding of the impact that the use of AEE may have on society.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 17, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 30, 2023
Public URL
Award Date Mar 30, 2021


You might also like

Downloadable Citations