Trust in humanoid robots: implications for services marketing

Michelle M.E. van Pinxteren*, Ruud W.H. Wetzels, Jessica Rüger, Mark Pluymaekers, Martin Wetzels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

164 Citations (Scopus)
256 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Service robots can offer benefits to consumers (e.g. convenience, flexibility, availability, efficiency) and service providers (e.g. cost savings), but a lack of trust hinders consumer adoption. To enhance trust, firms add human-like features to robots; yet, anthropomorphism theory is ambiguous about their appropriate implementation. This study therefore aims to investigate what is more effective for fostering trust: appearance features that are more human-like or social functioning features that are more human-like. Design/methodology/approach: In an experimental field study, a humanoid service robot displayed gaze cues in the form of changing eye colour in one condition and static eye colour in the other. Thus, the robot was more human-like in its social functioning in one condition (displaying gaze cues, but not in the way that humans do) and more human-like in its appearance in the other (static eye colour, but no gaze cues). Self-reported data from 114 participants revealing their perceptions of trust, anthropomorphism, interaction comfort, enjoyment and intention to use were analysed using partial least squares path modelling. Findings: Interaction comfort moderates the effect of gaze cues on anthropomorphism, insofar as gaze cues increase anthropomorphism when comfort is low and decrease it when comfort is high. Anthropomorphism drives trust, intention to use and enjoyment. Research limitations/implications: To extend human–robot interaction literature, the findings provide novel theoretical understanding of anthropomorphism directed towards humanoid robots. Practical implications: By investigating which features influence trust, this study gives managers insights into reasons for selecting or optimizing humanoid robots for service interactions. Originality/value: This study examines the difference between appearance and social functioning features as drivers of anthropomorphism and trust, which can benefit research on self-service technology adoption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-518
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Anthropomorphism
  • Humanoid service robots
  • Human–robot interaction
  • Public service
  • Trust
  • Turn-taking


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