Social awkwardness is a frequent challenge to healthy social interactions and can dramatically impact how people feel, communicate and behave. It is known that humor can invoke positive feelings and enable people to modify perspective of a situation. We explored whether using a non-humanoid robotic object performing humorous behavior can reduce social awkwardness between two strangers. The robot was peripherally incorporated into the interaction to ensure the natural social flow. We compared the impact of humorous and non-humorous robotic gestures on the human-human interaction. Objective and subjective measures indicate that despite being peripheral to the human-human interaction, the humorous robotic gestures significantly reduced the intensity of awkwardness between the strangers. Our findings suggest humorous robotic behavior can be used to enhance interpersonal relationships hindered by awkwardness and still preserve natural human-human interaction.
The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (https://chi2023.acm.org/)