2 Emerging Types Of 'Human–Robot Relationships'

Research explains the newfound phenomena of 'robosexuality' and 'robofriendship.'

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | March 29, 2024

A 2024 study examined two types of human-robot relationships and the motivations behind pursuing them. Researchers found that preconceived notions about social hierarchies and gender inequality can impact these dynamics.

Here are the two types of emerging human-robot relationships and why people are drawn to them, according to the study.

1. Robosexuality

Robosexuality refers to an interest or attraction towards humanoid robots as sexual partners. Researchers found that men more than women in the study displayed interest in robosexuality.

Robosexuality in men was associated with hostile sexism, which is a form of sexism characterized by overtly negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviors toward individuals or groups based on their gender, particularly women, often manifested through derogatory language, stereotypes or discriminatory actions.

Men in the study also had higher "social dominance orientation" (SDO) scores. This refers to an individual's preference for hierarchical social structures. People with a high social dominance orientation tend to endorse beliefs that support social inequality, such as the superiority of men over women.

Researchers suggest that those with a high social dominance orientation are likely more interested in sexual relations with robots because it allows them to feel in control of the relationship, as the robot usually lacks power or autonomy in the dynamic.

"It appears that men who endorse hostile sexist beliefs are more interested in sex with robots. This suggests that men's interest in sexual relationships with robots may be rooted in anger, disdain and distrust of women," the researchers write.

Researchers of a 2020 study on human relationships with "sexbots" highlight that attitudes surrounding robosexuality may be fueled by popular media representations of these relationships.

"Media representations of intimate human–robot relationships reveal stereotypical gender roles, heteronormativity and a focus on sexual versus emotional intimacy. In all its variants, such as comics, series, books or movies, science fiction provides habitually hypersexual heroines," the researchers explain.

These findings raise significant concerns about the attitudes and intentions driving robosexuality and highlight the potential reinforcement of harmful ideologies and attitudes towards women. Discussions surrounding robosexuality must prioritize ethical considerations related to consent, respect, social impact and regulatory oversight.

2. Robofriendship

Researchers of the 2024 study found that women in the study, more than men, were willing to be friends with robots. Researchers call this "robofriendship."

Robofriendship involves developing meaningful connections with robots and treating them as companions. Robofriendship can involve emotional attachment, support and shared experiences and reflects how robots can be integrated into various aspects of human life, such as caregiving and social interaction.

The authors also found that women were less interested in robofriendship if they had a higher social dominance orientation.

"Those who endorsed sexist beliefs reported less interest in platonic friendships with robots. Individuals who score low in SDO may be more interested in friendship with robots due to stronger notions about social equity and justice and greater perceived value of friendship reciprocity," the researchers explain.

Humans have an innate need for social connection and companionship. When they lack opportunities for social interaction or meaningful relationships, robots can offer a tempting alternative.

Human relationships can be complex, fraught with conflict and misunderstandings. In contrast, robots offer a nonjudgmental and predictable form of interaction that people find comfort in. Additionally, robots can provide consistent companionship without the risk of rejection or betrayal and help individuals feel less isolated.

Robofriendship may also be driven by the fact that robots are created to look as human-like as possible and respond to users in helpful, friendly ways.

In navigating the ever-evolving landscape of human-robot relationships, it is essential to approach these discussions with nuance, empathy and a commitment to ethical reflection. While social robots hold promise in enhancing human well-being and fostering meaningful connections, they also present ethical challenges that cannot be overlooked.

However, by embracing these challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, we can cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves, our relationships and our responsibilities in an increasingly technologically-driven world.

If you're curious about your attitude towards robots, take this test: Attitudes Towards Social Robots Scale

A similar version of this article can also be found on, here.

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