Conceptualizing Overtrust in Robots: Why Do People Trust a Robot That Previously Failed?

  • Paul RobinetteEmail author
  • Ayanna Howard
  • Alan R. Wagner


In this chapter, we present work that suggests people tend to be overly trusting and overly forgiving of robots in certain situations. In keeping with the theme of this book where intelligent systems help humans recover from errors, our work so far has focused on robots as guides in emergency situations. Our experiments show that, at best, human participants in our simulated emergencies focus on guidance provided by robots, regardless of a robot’s prior performance or other guidance information, and, at worst, believe that the robot is more capable than other sources of information. Even when the robots do break trust, a properly timed statement can convince a participant to follow it. Based on this evidence, we have conceptualized overtrust of robots using our previous framework of situational trust. We define two mechanisms in which people can overtrust robots: misjudging the abilities or intentions of the robot and misjudging the risk in the scenario. We discuss our prior work in light of this new reconceptualization to attempt to explain our previous results and encourage future work.



Support for this research was provided by the Motorola Foundation Professorship, the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair in Bioengineering, Air Force Office of Sponsored Research contract FA9550-13-1-0169 and Georgia Tech Research Institute.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Robinette
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ayanna Howard
    • 2
  • Alan R. Wagner
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Aerospace EngineeringPennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA

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