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Abstract

Ambivalence, the simultaneous experience of both positive and negative feelings about one and the same attitude object, has been investigated within psychological attitude research for decades. Ambivalence is interpreted as an attitudinal conflict with distinct affective, behavioral, and cognitive consequences. In social psychological research, it has been shown that ambivalence is sometimes confused with neutrality due to the use of measures that cannot distinguish between neutrality and ambivalence. Likewise, in social robotics research the attitudes of users are often characterized as neutral. We assume that this is due to the fact that existing research regarding attitudes towards robots lacks the opportunity to measure ambivalence. In the current experiment (N = 45), we show that a neutral and a robot stimulus were evaluated equivalently when using a bipolar item, but evaluations differed greatly regarding self-reported ambivalence and arousal. This points to attitudes towards robots being in fact highly ambivalent, although they might appear neutral depending on the measurement method. To gain valid insights into people’s attitudes towards robots, positive and negative evaluations of robots should be measured separately, providing participants with measures to express evaluative conflict instead of administering bipolar items. Acknowledging the role of ambivalence in attitude research focusing on robots has the potential to deepen our understanding of users’ attitudes and their potential evaluative conflicts, and thus improve predictions of behavior from attitudes towards robots.

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