Service robots with (perceived) theory of mind: An examination of humans’ reactions

Magnus Söderlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In the near future, it is expected that we humans will receive an increasing part of various services from robots. Many observers, and several existing studies, indicate that we react more positively if our robots have humanlike attributes and capabilities, and the present study examines one such capability: theory of mind. It has to do with the ability to impute mental states to others, which is essential for human-to-human interaction (including interactions in service settings). More specifically, the present study examines the effects of perceptions of service robots' theory of mind capabilities in human-to-robot interactions when the main downstream variable is perceived service quality. Several mediators are also examined. To this end, two empirical studies comprising human-to-robot interactions in a domestic setting were conducted. Both studies indicate that a service robot with more as opposed to less perceived theory of mind enhances perceived service quality, and that this effect is mediated by perceived humanness and perceived usefulness in relation to the robot. It may be argued that a robot's theory of mind capability can also be seen as creepy, which may reduce perceived service quality, because a competent mind reader can create serious harm to others. In the present study, however, robotic theory of mind capabilities did not influence creepiness perceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102999
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Human-to-robot interactions
  • Perceived service quality
  • Service robots
  • The uncanny valley
  • Theory of mind


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