Research Talk: Measuring Moral Patiency with Near Infrared Spectroscopy

October 25, 2012
196 Boston Avenue, 4th Floor
Speaker: Megan Strait, Tufts University


As robots become increasingly intertwined with our daily activities, it is unclear how much moral value we will ascribe to them and what the ethical consequences may be. In this project, we focus on the question of how to measure patiency ascription and related artifacts in settings of high moral import, as a step towards ensuring ethical outcomes in human-robot interactions.

Through a 5-part, 50-subject evaluation, we explore the use of the neuroimaging technique - functional near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) - for measuring the effects of (1) patiency ascription, (2) moral severity, and (3) monetary incentive in the context of utilitarian dilemmas. We further investigate the current applicability of NIRS to human-robot interaction research through an additional experiment on the physiological and computational limitations. Finally we discuss a multi-modal approach using fMRI and NIRS as part of the future directions of this work.