MONTREAL — To some they may seem silly, while others find them dreamy. Sex robots are still a niche area at the moment. Yet these life-size, realistic machines powered by artificial intelligence will only get more and more realistic. Who on Earth would agree to use a sex robot? New research from Concordia University investigates the specific personality traits of people who say they are (and are not) willing to engage with these erotic technologies.
The study finds that two traits, erotophilia and sexual sensation seeking, best predict openness to these erotic technologies. Erotophilia refers to the association of sex with positive feelings.
According to lead researcher Simon Dubé, if the market for sex robots is going to grow and become commonplace, it is essential that the players involved better understand their target audience. What makes someone interested in artificial love? Conversely, what personality traits are associated with avoiding such technologies?
“Understanding who the early adopters are and where the initial demand is coming from is extremely important,” says Dubé, a former Concordia public researcher who completed his doctorate this summer, in a university statement. “The companies that make them need to know to adjust and develop these technologies.”
These findings are based on data collected from nearly 500 adults via an online survey that asked their opinion of sex robots. To begin with, respondents’ personality was assessed using a validated measure of big five, which is a standard model comprising the primordial traits openness, friendliness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and extraversion.
“Personality ratings help us predict people’s likely thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in all sorts of situations, including those involving their sexuality — and in this case, their willingness to engage with new erotic technologies. such as sex robots,” adds Dubé, who will continue his studies as a postdoctoral fellow at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana this fall.
However, Dubé and his team also recognized that these categories may be too broad. So they added a model dealing with respondents’ attitudes towards sex and technology. This model also included an important value that measured both positive attitudes toward novelty and the desire for new erotic experiences. This allowed the study authors to assess traits related to erotophilia/phobia, or positive/negative attitudes regarding sex, traits related to technophilia/phobia, or positive/negative attitudes regarding technology , and traits related to sexual sensation seeking.
Men more likely to use sex robots
The results indicate that the Big Five are only marginally correlated with willingness to engage with a sex robot. Dubé notes that this was expected, given the breadth of each category. That being said, when researchers focused on traits more closely related to the specific topic of sex robots, the story changed. “We found that erotophilia and sexual sensation seeking, along with an enthusiasm for new, diverse, or more intense erotic experiences, were the primary drivers of people’s willingness to engage with these new technologies,” explains Dube. “Techphilia and non-sexual sensation seeking were also correlated, but only weakly.”
It’s also worth noting that overall, men seem more interested in sex robots than women. Meanwhile, subjects who identified as gender non-conforming or non-binary showed interest patterns similar to those of cis-identified men. Participants were not asked to reveal their sexual orientation for this study.
Additionally, the current sex robot market is heavily geared towards heterosexual men. Female erotic robots, called gynoids, are seen far more often in media, advertising, and websites. A high-end gynoid can cost up to $15,000. Dubé believes that women represent an untapped market for sex robots, especially since women currently make up the majority of sex toy consumers.
“Right now, women probably don’t feel like the product meets their own preferences or needs, or that it’s just too expensive for something that doesn’t need to be particularly complex or interesting,” he concludes.
The study is published in Computers in human behavior.