Journal CFP

Call for Papers:
“Virtuous robots: artificial agents and the good life”

Special edition of the
International Journal of Social Robotics

Guest Editors
Massimiliano Cappuccio (UAE University and UNSW), Omar Mubin (WSU), Mohammad Obaid (UNSW), Eduardo Benitez Sandoval (UNSW), Mair Velonaki (UNSW)

Expression of interest and tentative abstract: 1 January 2019 [Optional]

Full paper submission deadline: 1 March 2019

First review notification: 1 May 2019

Revision submission: 1 July 2019

Final notice of acceptance/rejection: 1 September 2019

Online first publication: 1 October 2019


Can robotics play a moral role in the life of humans? In addition to providing practical benefits to the users, can interaction with social robots fortify the users’ moral dispositions and instill new ethical principles? Can robotic companions help us correct our bad habits and promote new values? While the discussion on the moral risks implied by social robotics is certainly important and timely, addressing the opposite side of the story as well is crucial. It is plausible that, when responsibly designed, robots could actively promote positive moral dispositions and true ethical awareness in humans.

This special issue of the International Journal of Social Robotics seeks to explore from a multidisciplinary perspective the idea that, if effectively programmed for pedagogical, training, and self-development purposes, robots could be used to cultivate good habits, learn to manage negative emotions like anger and envy, and practice positive attitudes towards others, such as respect, care, and friendliness. If this hypothesis is correct, then properly designed robots could facilitate moral flourishing in humans, making us wiser and gentler people, with more decent and realized lifestyles.

The 12 original research papers that will be selected for publication in this special issue will investigate the philosophical, psychological, and technological/implementational dimensions of this hypothesis. The authors are invited to envision, illustrate, and validate how social robots (especially those explicitly programmed to act as coaches, companions, or training assistants) could inculcate new virtues or assist humans in developing good habits, accompanying their personal search for a morally aware and healthier way of living.


  • Good or bad teachers: can robots affect positively or negatively the moral behavior and values of humans? What forms of human-robot interaction can best solicit the development of virtues in humans?
  • Biases and diversity: can robots convey or reinforce prejudices? If so, can robots be used to dispel existing biases or discriminatory and racist tendencies, promoting more diverse views through a correct representation of minorities?
  • Embodied presence and moral example: if robots can affect the moral behavior and values of humans, how much of this depends on the embodied appearance and the physical presence of the robot?
  • Promoting self-development: robots playing the roles of coaches, trainers, and counsellors. What are the most effective designs and the most promising applications?
  • Trust, acceptance, tolerance: how accepting robot companionship into our social lives changes our lifestyle and redefines our priorities, loading it with new responsibilities and obligations.
  • Moral consideration for robots: how should virtuous humans treat their robots? Should cruel and disrespectful behaviors toward robots be discouraged or forbidden?
  • Slavery and autonomy: are humans going to develop vicious and cruel dispositions when they conceptualize their social robots as slaves? Can a dominant position boost the sense of entitlement? Should humans respect to some extent the autonomy and independency of their social robots?
  • Artificial moral agency and synthetic virtues: can robots develop a positive character? Can they learn virtues from the examples given by humans? Should robots be free to autonomously develop their own ethical principles and values, departing from the human example?
  • The nature of moral character: some experimental results in social psychology suggest that moral character does not exist as such, or anyway does not play a significant role in ethical decision, which strongly depends on situational contingencies. Can social robots be used to update the traditional notion of character in a way that is compatible with the experimental results?
  • Robots and the good life: does the notion of lifestyle apply to artificial agents, and should they aspire to a better and more fulfill one? What are the existential priorities, preferences, and goals of a robot?
  • Sex robots: can intimacy with robots corrupt one’s sentimental education, distorting one’s expectations about the partner? Can sex robots be used in a clinical context to correct pervert tendencies?
  • Educational robots and discipline: will robot maids and servants make children lazy and arrogant? Should robots be allowed to scold and reproach, chastise, or even punish humans?
  • Violent games: does violence on robots reinforce sadistic and cruel tendencies? Can violence on robots be used cathartically, to remove frustrations and overcome brutal instincts?
  • Empathizing with robots: is it possible to design robots to solicit compassion and empathy in humans? Are human emotions comparable to the emotions expressed by robots? Is the human empathy for robots essentially different from the empathy that humans experience for other living agents?
  • The human-robot bond: is it desirable and morally acceptable to build robots designed to elicit attachment and strong emotions in humans?
  • Synthetic eudaimonia: what roles will be played by robots in fulfilling the human aspiration to happiness, serenity, psycho-physical well-being? Is there a theoretical or practical relationship between the applications of service robotics that aim to human happiness and those that aim to moral development?
  • Evaluation methods and user study approaches: how do we measure fluctuations in human dispositions, personality development, and accentuation of character traits during and post robotic interaction? What scoring systems, sensor apparati, and inferential routines are most effective to track the ongoing transformations of attitude and lifestyle in an individual or in a group?

The Robotics & AI in Society workshop: Sydney 8-9 November 2018

The topics of this special issue will be discussed during a session of the workshop Robots and AI in Society: Socio-psychological, cultural-economic, and ethico-political aspects of living with artificial autonomous agents, Western Sydney University Parramatta Campus, 8 and 9 November 2018. The readers and the authors of International Journal of Social Robotics are invited to attend and participate in the discussion.

Instructions for authors and LaTeX templates

Please visit the journal homepage and select ‘Instructions for Authors’ in the sidebar.

Recommended length

The expected length is 9-12 pages, for a total of 6-7000 words (if the submitted paper includes only text). The paper should not exceed 8000 words in length, including bibliographical references and notes.

Contact information

For information and updates about the special issue: massimilianocappuccio [at]

For information about the Robotics and AI in Society workshop: o [dot] mubin [at]