A new study out of North Carolina State University sheds some interesting light on how employees – some of them, anyway – view their robotic co-workers.

They blame them for workplace accidentsif they believe the robots are autonomous.

About the study

Researchers showed study participants scenarios of several workplace accidents involving both a human and a robot. If the scenario described the robot as non-autonomous, the participants attributed almost as little blame to them as to the environmental factors; in contrast, if the scenario described the robot as autonomous, the participants attributed almost as much blame to them as to the human.

Researchers say the study raises questions about the challenges of assimilating autonomous robots into the workplace while maintaining accountability among human employees. Given the perceptions of robots companies may opt to only use robots that are controlled by humans.

According to the study’s authors, “When robots and humans serve on teams, human perception of their technological team members can be a critical component of successful cooperation, especially when task completion fails.”

Journal Reference:


Caleb Furlough, Thomas Stokes, Douglas J. Gillan. Attributing Blame to Robots: I. The Influence of Robot Autonomy. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 2019; 001872081988064 DOI: 10.1177/0018720819880641