Shaking hands before negotiations results in a better deal for both parties – even when one is represented by a robot.
Research has found that the trust factor associated with a handshake at the start of a conversation is there even when a robot takes the place of a human during a business meeting.
Scientists say using robots provides a powerful two-way experience that allows people to have a physical presence in a distant place unlike using Skype or video conferencing.
Developing such interaction could lead to robots conducting business meetings or allowing people with severely limited mobility to interact with the world in a unique way.
The study, by the University of Bath, used NAO, a 58cm tall humanoid robot which was designed to be a companion around the house, in mock real-estate negotiations.
One person – assigned the role of buyer or seller – was present in the meeting with NAO while the other took part in the meeting through the robot’s inbuilt head camera and microphone.
Touch sensitive sensors in the robot’s hand transmitted a signal when it was grasped, leading to a controller in the remote person’s hand vibrating at the same time.
Results showed that the act of shaking hands was as important when people interacted virtually through the robot as when they met face-to-face.
Researcher Chris Bevan, of the university’s Department of Psychology, says the experiment highlights how important shaking hands is upon the way people come to judge others as being trustworthy and willing to cooperate.
“Using a robotic avatar, we were able to demonstrate that this effect holds true even when a person cannot see the face of their counterpart,” Dr Bevan said.