As humans we are blessed with having a conscience, especially when we empathize with others, and a new study just confirmed that humans also feel empathy for robots.
We've been placing human feelings on robots for years, such as Rosie the robot from The Jetsons, toy robots like the Furby, the household maid Roomba, and while Apple's Siri isn't a robot, many people speak and treat the personal assistant as something that is alive and lives inside their iOS devices.
According to a new study by researchers in Germany, the interactions and feelings we place on robots are the same kinds we also place on humans. Scientists at the University of Duisburg Essen conducted two studies that measured participants' emotional reactions when they were shown humans and robots being treated poorly.
In the first study, researchers showed 40 participants videos of a small and cute robotic dinosaur being treated affectionately by a human, with hugs and tickles. Another video showed the robotic dinosaur being abused by hitting it or dropping it on the floor.
When researchers asked participants how they felt after watching both videos, the participants claimed that they had more negative feelings watching the robotic dinosaur being abused.
In the second study performed by researchers, an MRI was used to monitor and record brain activity while the participants watched human-to-human and human-to-robot interactions. The researchers found:
"Fourteen participants watched videos showing either affectionate or violent interaction between a human, a robot and an inanimate object. Watching affectionate behavior towards both the robot and the human provoked the same brain activity in the participants. However, in this study, participants exhibited stronger reactions to images of the human being abused, which suggests that they still felt more empathy for the human than the robot."
It just goes to show that humans can emotionally connect and place feelings on something that is not an actual living creature, but if we can see and find human-like qualities in something, it's in our nature to connect and have feelings for it.