Project Details: Using Stereotypes to Reason about Interaction

Researcher: Alan Wagner

Psychologists note that humans regularly use categories to simplify and speed the process of person perception (Macrae & Bodenhausen, 2000). Macrae and Bodenhausen suggest that categorical thinking influences a human's evaluations, impressions, and recollections of the target. The influence of categorical thinking on interpersonal expectations is commonly referred to as a stereotype. For better or for worse, stereotypes have a profound impact on interpersonal interaction (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996; Biernat & Kobrynowicz, 1997). Information processing models of human cognition suggest that the formation and use of stereotypes may be critical for quick assessment of new interactive partners (Bodenhausen, Macrae, & Garst, 1998). From the perspective of a roboticist the question then becomes, can the use of stereotypes similarly speedup the process of partner modeling for a robot?

This question is potentially critical for robots operating in complex, dynamic social environments, such as search and rescue. In environments such as these the robot may not have time to learn a model of their interactive partner through successive interactions. Rather, the robot will likely need to bootstrap its modeling of the partner with information from prior, similar partners. Stereotypes serve this purpose.

The goal of this project is to explore the creation and use of stereotypes by a robot to bootstrap the process of learning about new interactive human partners. Moreover, we hope to learn about the type of information necessary for a robot to model a human partner and how stereotypes fail.