In a recent re-running of the Milgram experiment, a German researcher replaced the human subjects on the other side of the switch with a robot and discovered that humans assigned to switch the robot off have qualms about doing so when the robot, in a sense, pleads for its life. The experiment follows another staged in 1996 where humans interacted with a computer that was either helpful or not. Interesting series of experiments spread across a rather impressive range of years. The focus of the research is on the importance of reciprocity in human psychology. The NPR write-up suggests that the scientists conclude that reciprocity is built-in. [Link to NPR report]. [Link to researcher’s website].
[Link to NPR report]: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/01/28/170272582/do-we-treat-our-gadgets-like-they-re-human
[Link to researcher’s website]: http://www.bartneck.de/publications/2007/daisy/index.html