Humans will befriend a stick — as long as it moves properly

Human emotions and social interaction have a lot to do with body language — how our faces express what we're thinking and feeling, how our gestures are read by other people, and how we invade (or retreat from) each other's personal space. In fact, those movements and behaviors are so important that, if you map them onto an otherwise completely non-human, non-animal form, we'll start interpreting it as engaging with us — even if that form is nothing more than a moving stick.

This video, clips from a study that was published in 2011 by computer scientists at the University of Calgary, shows what test subjects did and said when they were left alone in a room with a stick-like robot, and asked to just think out loud and interact with the robot in whatever ways felt natural. Some people made friends. Others tried to fight it. And a few tried to talk it out of wanting to fight them.

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  1. Heather

    We are so tuned into body language it is amazing. People don't realize that we notice even the tiniest movements and that sends signals to us.

    I have often thought that many people who feel that they are psychic are actually just highly tuned into reading body language. The feelings they get when they "read" people is actually just reading body language.

  2. fuzzyfungus

    The Enrichment Center reminds you that the Motile Companion Stick cannot speak. In the event that the Motile Companion Stick does speak, the Enrichment Center urges you to disregard its advice.
  3. Foxtongue

    I've noticed the roomba effect becomes even more pronounced with the application of googly eyes, as if where it sits on the scale between Appliance and Pet shifts when it almost but not quite has the beginnings of a face.

  4. timquinn

    It makes me have a funny feeling when I read these sorts of discussions and everyone is talking about, "Ha, that machine totally fooled us into thinking it was human and it is nothing but a bunch of switches." and never, "Damn, what if we are just a bunch of switches and fooling ourselves most of the time."

    The phone call, we traced it. It's coming from inside your own head!

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