The Journal of Applied Social Psychology has just pubished a study that is both bizarre and profound. It reports on two experiments that show gender stereotyping extends to robots.
(S)he’s Got the Look: Gender Stereotyping of Robots
F. Eyssel and F. Hegel
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Previous research on gender effects in robots has largely ignored the role of facial cues. We fill this gap in the literature by experimentally investigating the effects of facial gender cues on stereotypical trait and application ascriptions to robots. As predicted, the short-haired male robot was perceived as more agentic than was the long-haired female robot, whereas the female robot was perceived as more communal than was the male counterpart. Analogously, stereotypically male tasks were perceived more suitable for the male robot, relative to the female robot, and vice versa. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that gender stereotypes, which typically bias social perceptions of humans, are even applied to robots. Implications for design-related decisions are discussed.
Sadly, the study is locked behind a paywall, which is a pity because the discussion about “implications for design-related decisions” is a sort of parallel-world look into android gender politics.
The authors discuss whether it is better to create gender free robots to fight social stereotypes or whether we should create robots that comply with society’s prejudices to make them more acceptable.
Personally, I’m all for genderqueer robots. That would really throw a spanner in the works. Or a works in the spanner.