Robot hairstyles

FloBi photo by Barbara Proschak. All other images by Frank Hegel.

FloBi photo by Barbara Proschak. All other images by Frank Hegel.

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Robots, hairstyles, and gender biases, as featured on Spark 230, from November 2013.

 

What does a robot's hairstyle have to do with the types of jobs people think it can do? A lot.

Friederike Eyssel is a professor of Gender and Emotion in Cognitive Interaction Technology at Bielefeld University. She and her colleague Frank Hegel are co-authors of a paper called (S)he's Got the Look: Gender Stereotyping of Robots.

In their research, Eyssel and Hegel gathered participants, and showed them two different photos.

One was a photo of a robot with long hair:

The other was a photo of a robot with short hair:

Then they asked the participants questions about the robots. To what extent is the robot sociable, warm-hearted, and nurturing? To what extent is it dominant, assertive, with a sense of agency?

According to Eyssel, not only was the robot with short hair perceived as having stereotypically male qualities, participants also believed it was better suited to tasks like guarding, protecting, and fixing.

The robot with longer hair was seen as better suited for tasks like taking care of children at home, and taking care of a household.

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