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Journal of Interactive Media

Editor-in-Chief: Ziegler, Jürgen

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Volume 18, Issue 1


Perception of an Uncertain Ethical Reasoning Robot

Hanna Stellmach
  • Corresponding author
  • Foundations of Artificial Intelligence Group, Department of Computer Science, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
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/ Felix Lindner
  • Foundations of Artificial Intelligence Group, Department of Computer Science, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
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  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2019-04-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icom-2019-0002


This study investigates the effect of uncertainty expressed by a robot facing a moral dilemma on humans’ moral judgment and impression formation. In two experiments, participants were shown a video of a robot explaining a moral dilemma and suggesting a decision to make. The robot either expressed certainty or uncertainty about the decision it suggests. Participants rated how much blame the robot deserves for its decision, the moral wrongness of the chosen action, and their impression of the robot in terms of four scale dimensions measuring social perception. The results suggest that the subpopulation of participants unfamiliar with the moral dilemma assigns significantly more blame to the uncertain robot as compared to the certain one, while expressed uncertainty has less effect on moral wrongness judgments. The second experiment suggests that higher blame ratings are mediated by the fact that the uncertain robot was perceived as more humanlike. We discuss implications of this result for the design of social robots.

Keywords: Moral HRI; Conversational Robot; Uncertainty


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About the article

Hanna Stellmach

Hanna Stellmach holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Cognitive Science from the University of Tübingen and a Master’s Degree of Computer Science from the University of Freiburg. In her Master’s Thesis, she worked on the perception of ethical robots.

Felix Lindner

Felix Lindner is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Freiburg. His current research interests include moral human-robot interaction and machine ethics.

Published Online: 2019-04-16

Published in Print: 2019-04-26

Citation Information: i-com, Volume 18, Issue 1, Pages 79–91, ISSN (Online) 2196-6826, ISSN (Print) 1618-162X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icom-2019-0002.

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