Robots, Rebukes, and Relationships: Confucian Ethics and the Study of Human-Robot Interactions

Res Philosophica 100 (1):43-62 (2023)
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The status and functioning of shame is contested in moral psychology. In much of anglophone philosophy and psychology, it is presumed to be largely destructive, while in Confucian philosophy and many East Asian communities, it is positively associated with moral development. Recent work in human-robot interaction offers a unique opportunity to investigate how shame functions while controlling for confounding variables of interpersonal interaction. One research program suggests a Confucian strategy for using robots to rebuke participants, but results from experiments with educational technologies imply a different and potentially opposing account of shame’s role in personal development. By digging deeper into the details of Confucian theorizing about shame, I identify a unifying explanation for these apparently conflicting results. I conclude by offering suggestions for future empirical research in human-robot interactions to further investigate shame’s role in moral development.

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Alexis Elder
University of Minnesota, Duluth


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