Could a rising robot workforce make humans less prejudiced?

Publication Year


Journal Article

Automation is becoming ever more prevalent, with robot workers replacing many human employees. Many perspectives have examined the economic impact of a robot workforce, but here we consider its social impact: How will the rise of robot workers affect intergroup relations? Whereas some past research has suggested that more robots will lead to more intergroup prejudice, we suggest that robots could also reduce prejudice by highlighting commonalities between all humans. As robot workers become more salient, intergroup differences—including racial and religious differences—may seem less important, fostering a perception of common human identity (i.e., panhumanism). Six studies (ΣN = 3,312) support this hypothesis. Anxiety about the rising robot workforce predicts less anxiety about human outgroups (Study 1), and priming the salience of a robot workforce reduces prejudice toward outgroups (Study 2), makes people more accepting of outgroup members as leaders and family members (Study 3), and increases wage equality across ingroup and outgroup members in an economic simulation (Study 4). This effect is mediated by panhumanism (Studies 5–6), suggesting that the perception of a common human ingroup explains why robot salience reduces prejudice. We discuss why automation may sometimes exacerbate intergroup tensions and other times reduce them.

Am. Psychol.
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