Perceived Moral Patiency of Social Robots: Explication and Scale Development

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1 Scopus citations


As robots are increasingly integrated into human social spheres, they will be put in situations in which they may be perceived as moral patients—the actual or possible targets of humans’ (im)moral actions by which they may realize some benefit or suffering. However, little is understood about this potential, in part due to a lack of operationalization for measuring humans’ perceptions of machine moral patiency. This paper explicates the notion of perceived moral patiency (PMP) of robots and reports the results of three studies that develop a scale for measuring robot PMP and explore its measurements with relevant social dynamics. We ultimately present an omnibus six-factor scale, with each factor capturing the extent to which people believe a robot deserves a specific kind of moral consideration as specified by moral foundations theory (care, fairness, loyalty, authority, purity, liberty). The omnibus PMP scale’s factor structure is robust across both in-principle and in-context evaluations, and measures contextualized (local) PMP as distinct from heuristic (global) PMP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-113
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Social Robotics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • moral foundations theory
  • moral patiency
  • scale development
  • social robots

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • General Computer Science
  • Social Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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