I noticed in several places (usually on web forms, but also with virtual assistants) that there is sometimes (or usually) an expectation of being polite towards the computer or device.

An example would be a button "yes, please" or "no, thank you" instead of a "yes" or "no".

I also read about a casual review of how people interact with Alexa or Google Assistant - a sizable part (I think it was 30%) would say "yes please".

I was wondering whether there was interesting research in that area, which could give some substance to hand-waving theories.


  • I work in IT for the past 30 years so I am used to talking to my computer (asking him to please go faster, or telling because my code does not work. I do not have "casual exchanges", though.
  • for the less serious aspect of that question, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMS2VnDveP8 (2:25 for the politeness part, but the whole video is worth watching)

1 Answer 1


There seems to be a bit of information on this topic, with this type of research starting in the 1990s, according to Nielsen, Pfattheicher, and Keijsers (2021), who believe that humans tend to have often mindless, or automatic, prosocial attitudes and behaviors towards machines and that their use in research can help open new doors into human cognition as machines give some flexibility within some elements in research design (confederates, moral issues, etc).

On the other end of the spectrum, Brščić, D., Kidokoro, H., Suehiro, Y., & Kanda, T. (2015), found that children were often mean or abusive to robots, with the children being more aggressive towards the machines given two factors: how many other children were present and how much time was spent with the robot.

It seems that kids might be the exception to the rule when it comes to prosocial interactions with machines, of course it should be noted that sample size is an issue with this line of research, at least at the moment as pointed out by Nielsen et al.,(2021).

These articles might help in getting you started on human machine interactions, though it appears to be in preliminary stages.


Brščić, D., Kidokoro, H., Suehiro, Y., & Kanda, T. (2015, March). Escaping from children's abuse of social robots. In Proceedings of the tenth annual acm/ieee international conference on human-robot interaction (pp. 59-66). https://doi.org/10.1145/2696454.2696468

Nielsen, Y. A., Pfattheicher, S., & Keijsers, M. (2021). Prosocial behavior towards machines. Current Opinion in Psychology. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.08.004


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