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Wizard of Awwws: Exploring Psychological Impact on the Researchers in Social HRI Experiments

In social Human-Robot Interaction (sHRI) people have studied social interactions with awkward, confrontational, or unsettling robots. In order to create these situations, researchers often secretly control the robot (the “Wizard of Oz”, WoZ, technique), use confederates (researchers pretending to be participants), or the researchers themselves create the desired social condition. While these studies may be antagonistic, they are designed to be ethical; when conducting a study, IRB (Institutional Review Board) processes are in place to assess the study design for potential risk to participants, and to ultimately protect the public. However, these processes do not generally involve assessment of impact on the researchers conducting the study. In our own work, we have noted how researcher “wizards” in social HRI experiments, particularly those which place participants in awkward or confrontational situations, can themselves be negatively impacted from the experience when their experiment protocol has them antagonize, deceive, or argue with participants. In this paper, we explore how experimental design can impact the wellbeing of the researchers, particularly for wizards in social HRI experiments. By building a psychological grounding for the impact on people who do socially stressful actions, we evaluate the potential for researcher social stress in recent sHRI studies. Our summary and discussion of this survey results in recommendations for future HRI research to reduce the burden on wizards in their own experiments.

Daniel J. Rea, Denise Geiskkovitch, James E. Young. "Wizard of Awwws: Exploring Psychological Impact on the Researchers in Social HRI Experiments." In Proceedings of alt.HRI track, Human-Robot Interaction. ACM. 2017.


James E.Young

James E.Young