Robots are coming to town: A visual experiment on urban belonging and anxiety

Nina Savela, Rita Latikka, Jussi Lahtinen, Atte Oksanen

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Robots are becoming increasingly common in urban social environments and this is likely to cause emotional reactions among people. Utilizing theoretical frameworks of social identity approach and integrated threat theory, we investigated a sense of belonging to and perceived anxiety toward an urban environment with robots. We conducted a visual survey experiment using a representative sample of Finnish adults (N = 1226). Results based on multilevel regression analysis showed that, compared to deserted settings or settings with humans, robots in urban spaces decreased a sense of belonging to and increased anxiety toward an urban environment. Participants who were living in less urban areas, older, or neurotic reported a lower sense of belonging. Women and people that were living in less urban areas, young, neurotic, or introverted reported higher perceived anxiety. The results suggest that new technologies like robots in urban spaces can bring forth also feelings of anxiety and disruption for the sense of belonging, at least for some people. Hence, introduction of these technologies should be considered carefully in urban planning. Our study contributes to the theoretical discussions on place identity and examining anxiety as a disruption of the identification process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104640
Early online date29 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Anxiety
  • Robot
  • Sense of belonging
  • Survey experiment
  • Urban environment

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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