When humans communicate, facial expressions, gestures and body language play a big role in the conversation. Without realizing it, we imitate our counterparts in order to understand what they are feeling.
That applies to speech as well. Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten, a social psychologist at the University of Duisburg-Essen, is studying whether such behavior also takes place in human-machine interactions. She and her team have programmed a robot to speak to test subjects in either standard High German or a regional dialect. The participants who were addressed in standard German answered in standard speech; those who heard a dialect used more dialect themselves.