Eye contact is an integral part of 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 whether robots and other artificial intelligence agents are able to gain human trust and shape investment decisions by making eye contact.
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 does not only signal attention but builds up trust, which mitigates perceived risks and helps decision making. While these effects are well understood in social interactions among humans, what happens if we deal 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 robots are entering our everyday lives – from chatbots to driverless cars - this question is becoming ever more pressing for businesses thinking about deploying artificial intelligence.
The question of whether robots can build rapport with human clients is especially crucial for the finance industry, where so-called robo-advisors are establishing 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 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.
Research about robots and recommendation agents indicates that higher levels of anthropomorphism are more likely to induce higher trust and usage intention. However, there is also contradicting evidence and the interaction of all influencing factors is not 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 main nonverbal signal of a social interaction between humans. The results will provide practitioners with valuable advice on how to design more trustable robo-advisors, especially, to which extent the introduction of human-like agents and their social interaction with consumers increases consumer trust and investment likelihood.