Quotation Willems, Jurgen, Schmidthuber, Lisa, Vogel, Dominik, Ebinger, Falk, Vanderelst, Dieter. 2022. Ethics of robotized public services: The role of robot design and its actions. Government Information Quarterly.




Public administrations invest heavily in the development of ‘smart’ public services, including autonomous public service robots. Since public service robots are designed to operate unsupervised, robots must interact in an ethically acceptable way with citizens. Robots are often designed to provide a comfortable interaction with citizens, which can be achieved by making the robot's appearance and actions more human-like. This raises the question whether a human-like design affects the ethicalness evaluation of a robot's actions. In a laboratory experiment with eye-tracking (n1 = 156) and a representative, online vignette experiment (n2 = 1339), we find that a more human-like robot design draws more visual attention than a robot with a less human-like design. However, the robot's appearance does not affect the ethicalness evaluation of the robot's behavior. In contrast, our results show that it is not the more human-like appearance that influences evaluations of ethicalness, but a robot's ethical actions influence the extent to which it is perceived as human. We frame our findings in the scientific and practitioner debates on ethical rule-setting for (public) service robots.


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  • experiment
  • robots
  • ethics
  • rules
  • public administration
  • public services
  • government

Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Government Information Quarterly
Citation Index SSCI
WU-Journal-Rating new WH-B
Language English
Title Ethics of robotized public services: The role of robot design and its actions
Year 2022
Reviewed? Y
URL https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740624X22000168?via%3Dihub
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2022.101683
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2022.101683


Willems, Jurgen (Details)
Schmidthuber, Lisa (Details)
Ebinger, Falk (Former researcher)
Vanderelst, Dieter (University of Cincinnati, United States/USA)
Vogel, Dominik (Hamburg University, Germany)
Institute for Public Management and Governance IN (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
2917 Business technology (Details)
5234 Administrative science (Details)
5308 Management sciences (Details)
5407 Ethics and social sciences (Details)
5951 E-government (Details)
6103 Ethics (Details)
6117 Medical ethics (Details)
6118 Philosophy of technology (Details)
6123 Business ethics (Details)
6906 Public research (Details)
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