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NIM Research Spotlight Robos Trust ENG


How Artificial Attention Shapes Human Intention

The impact of robo-advisors' anthropomorphism and attention cues on consumer trust and investment decisions

Eye contact is integral to social interactions among humans, signaling attention, building up trust, and ultimately driving human decision-making. But is this also true for human-machine interactions? Taking the finance industry as an example, we tackle the question of whether robots and other artificial intelligence agents can gain human trust and shape investment decisions by making eye contact.

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Trust in Robots

The effects of eye contact in social interactions

Making eye contact is one of the most powerful ways to build relationships – whether it is a new date, an old friend, or a prospective business partner. Eye contact signals attention and builds trust, which mitigates perceived risks and helps decision-making. While these effects are well understood in human social interactions, what happens when dealing with artificial intelligence? Are robots and other intelligent agents able to gain human trust and ultimately shape human decisions by making eye contact? As our lives get increasingly automated and as robots enter our everyday lives – from chatbots to driverless cars – this question is becoming ever more pressing for businesses considering deploying artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence in the financial industry

Whether robots can build rapport with human clients is especially crucial for the finance industry, where so-called robo-advisors establish themselves as a new tool for digital asset management. For complex products with huge amounts of money at stake, automating financial services and maintaining customer trust at the same time is a great challenge. Employing artificial intelligence in the form of virtual agents or humanoid robots as financial advisors instead of text-based interfaces, which are currently dominating the market, might be a promising solution.

How anthropomorphism impacts consumer trusts and investment decisions

Research about robots and recommendation agents indicates that higher levels of anthropomorphism are more likely to induce higher trust and usage intention. However, there also is contradicting evidence, and the interaction of all influencing factors is yet to be fully understood. Our research aims to address this research gap and shed light on the research question of how a robot advisor with varying degrees of anthropomorphic appearance and behavior impacts consumers’ trust and investment decisions. We especially focus on eye contact as a primary nonverbal signal of human social interaction. The results will provide experts with valuable advice on designing more trustworthy robo-advisors, reformulating to which extent the introduction of human-like agents and their social interaction with consumers increases consumer trust and investment likelihood.

Project team


[Translate to English:]
Dr. Carolin Kaiser

Head of Artificial Intelligence

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