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Using Robots to Moderate Team Conflict: The Case of Repairing Violations

Malte F. Jung
Nikolas Martelaro
Pamela Hinds

We explore whether robots can positively influence conflict dynamics by repairing interpersonal violations that occur during a team-based problem-solving task. In a 2 (negative trigger: task- directed vs. personal attack) x 2 (repair: yes vs. no) between- subjects experiment (N = 57 teams, 114 participants), we studied the effect of a robot intervention on affect, perceptions of conflict, perceptions of team members' contributions, and team performance during a problem-solving task. Specifically, the robot either intervened by repairing a task-directed or personal attack by a confederate or did not intervene. Contrary to our expectations, we found that the robot's repair interventions increased the groups' awareness of conflict after the occurrence of a personal attack thereby acting against the groups' tendency to suppress the conflict. These findings suggest that repair heightened awareness of a normative violation. Overall, our results provide support for the idea that robots can aid team functioning by regulating core team processes such as conflict.