PLoS ONE (Jan 2022)

Human- or object-like? Cognitive anthropomorphism of humanoid robots

  • Alessandra Sacino,
  • Francesca Cocchella,
  • Giulia De Vita,
  • Fabrizio Bracco,
  • Francesco Rea,
  • Alessandra Sciutti,
  • Luca Andrighetto

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 17, no. 7


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Across three experiments (N = 302), we explored whether people cognitively elaborate humanoid robots as human- or object-like. In doing so, we relied on the inversion paradigm, which is an experimental procedure extensively used by cognitive research to investigate the elaboration of social (vs. non-social) stimuli. Overall, mixed-model analyses revealed that full-bodies of humanoid robots were subjected to the inversion effect (body-inversion effect) and, thus, followed a configural processing similar to that activated for human beings. Such a pattern of finding emerged regardless of the similarity of the considered humanoid robots to human beings. That is, it occurred when considering bodies of humanoid robots with medium (Experiment 1), high and low (Experiment 2) levels of human likeness. Instead, Experiment 3 revealed that only faces of humanoid robots with high (vs. low) levels of human likeness were subjected to the inversion effects and, thus, cognitively anthropomorphized. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings for robotic and psychological research are discussed.