Cultivating Cross-Cultural Trust Between Humans and Technology!

Project officers at Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) (Dr. Nandini Iyer, and Dr. Laura Steckman) visited Tallinn University, School of Digital Technologies on 8-9th February 2024. As a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), AFOSR's technical experts foster and fund research within AFRL, universities, and industry laboratories to ensure the transition of research results to support USAF needs.


The Trust and Influence, one of the programs of AFOSR, funds interdisciplinary high risk, transformative basic research that (1) elucidates the social and cognitive principles and processes surrounding the establishment, maintenance, and repair of trust between and among humans and intelligent agents, machines, algorithms, and/or other emergent technologies, with a particular interest in situations where these concepts apply to heterogeneous, distributed teams or teaming constellations (i.e. teams of teams); and (2) advances the science of social influence to enhance understanding of hat consider how the phenomena and/or associated processes shape or affect human beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, and/or behaviors.

Associate Professor of Interaction Design in the School of Digital Technologies of Tallinn University Sonia Sousa has worked on the Trust and Influence Program of AFOSR for the past three years trying to bring the topic of  Trust between Human and Computer Interaction to a new level. “Sonia does excellent research aligned with AFOSR’s research interests. She is one of few researchers who do cross-cultural evaluation of trust for design. It's important to consider perspectives of different cultures when you are talking about trust in technology because people, the users, are heterogenous, with different perspectives and needs.”, - says Dr. Steckman.

Dr. Iyer adds that the following research covers areas that were not covered before or were not covered well enough, emphasizing the importance of looking at things globally and considering genders and generations alongside with cultural aspects. Although there's still a lot to be done in the frame of this topic, Dr. Iyer is happy to see that the TLÜ research group is very interested in going further. 

The Trust and Influence program is in its last grant year and a lot has changed since the day Sónia Sousa has started to work on it. “ Back then, years ago, everyone used to think that this topic was not important enough to be researched. Because people were concerned about technology, its development, and implementation. But we live in a world full of people, not technology, so why is technology so important? Without people technology does not exist”, - mentions Dr. Sousa.

For Dr. Sousa, the topic of trust in technology has always been the main area of research interest and finding an opportunity to work on the Trust and Influence program of AFOSR was a pleasant surprise. She hopes that soon people will understand that the examination and evaluation of Trust between human and technology is not just important, but is mandatory.