Redefining culture in cultural robotics

Mark L. Ornelas*, Gary B. Smith, Masoumeh Mansouri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Cultural influences are pervasive throughout human behaviour, and as human–robot interactions become more common, roboticists are increasingly focusing attention on how to build robots that are culturally competent and culturally sustainable. The current treatment of culture in robotics, however, is largely limited to the definition of culture as national culture. This is problematic for three reasons: it ignores subcultures, it loses specificity and hides the nuances in cultures, and it excludes refugees and stateless persons. We propose to shift the focus of cultural robotics to redefine culture as an emergent phenomenon. We make use of three research programmes in the social and cognitive sciences to justify this definition. Consequently, cultural behaviour cannot be explicitly programmed into a robot, rather, a robot must be designed with the capability to participate in the interactions that lead to the arising of cultural behaviour. In the final part of the paper, we explore which capacities and abilities are the most salient for a robot to do this.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-788
Number of pages12
JournalAI and Society
Issue number2
Early online date4 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Cultural robotics
  • Ecological psychology
  • Social cognition
  • Social robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Artificial Intelligence


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