© Unsplash/Adi Nugroho
The concept of social loafing in the workplace is relatively little known to the general public, but well established scientifically. Concretely, this happens at work when an employee evolves in a team and relies on the talent or efficiency of one of his colleagues to complete a task. And precisely, researchers from the Technical University of Berlin wanted to see if the increasingly massive use of robots produced the same type of result.
Are we going to rely on robots at work?
To see more clearly, 42 participants were recruited. Their mission was to inspect industrial defects, and more specifically to examine printed circuits to see if they had errors. Half of the workers were informed that they were working on circuits that had previously been observed by a robot. The other party was not informed.
When observing the results, the authors initially observed no difference between the two groups. The participants therefore evaluated their feeling of responsibility for this task, the effort made, and their performance in carrying out this mission in the same way.
But looking in more detail, real disparities appear. In fact, those who worked with the robot detected fewer errors than the others. In short, they were relying on the work previously done by the machine unconsciously.
Scientists explain that this tendency can pose a problem. Linda Onnasch, one of the authors, specifies: “In the manufacturing industry in general, but especially in safety-related areas where double-checking is common, this can have a negative impact on work results.”
However, this study presents certain limitations as the researchers themselves admit. So, even though participants were informed of the robot's help, the machine was not nearby. Likewise, workers knew they were being observed, which can influence their behavior.
Robots to do our household chores
In any case, the robotics sector is evolving, and there is some hope in the area of carrying out household chores. For example, we recently told you about this astonishing research by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States.
The authors have indeed succeeded in training their machines for household tasks by making them watch videos of tutorials on the Internet. We let you discover this fascinating study in our article here.