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Science and technology

The dynamics of individuals' relationship with technology, specifically artificial intelligence (AI), are heavily influenced by psychological basic needs. A recent study conducted at Tampere University in Finland has revealed that the degree to which a person experiences independence, competence, and belongingness while using technology plays a significant role in shaping their attitudes towards AI.

Researchers carried out two separate surveys to explore people's attitudes towards technology. The first survey involved approximately 8,800 individuals aged 18 to 75 from six European countries: Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Poland.

The study found that both positive and negative attitudes towards AI were linked to psychological basic needs. In particular, feelings of competence and belongingness strongly influenced positive attitudes towards AI. For Finnish respondents, perceived independence in using technology also explained their positive attitude towards AI.

A second study, focusing on Finnish respondents aged 18 to 80 (N=827), employed a longitudinal design to explore the relationship between autonomy, belongingness, and attitudes towards AI. The researchers discovered that as feelings of autonomy and belongingness increased, positivity towards AI grew while negativity decreased. The study also accounted for various social and psychological background factors that impact attitudes over time.

"The longitudinal study, conducted with measurements at two time points, enabled us to examine changes in perceived autonomy and competence. The growth in feelings of independence and capability was associated with both stronger positivity and reduced negativity towards AI," explained Jenna Bergdahl, a doctoral researcher at Tampere University.

This study sheds light on the interplay between psychological needs and attitudes towards AI. The field of social psychology posits that when psychological needs are fulfilled, they influence internal motivation, satisfaction, and well-being. The modern classic theory of self-determination, a cornerstone of social psychology, provided the researchers with a framework to explain technology attitudes.

The significance of understanding people's attitudes and perceptions towards AI stems from the ongoing AI boom. This study, the first of its kind, directly explores the connection between psychological basic needs and attitudes towards AI, offering insights that can guide more effective and nuanced technology use.

"People hold both hopes and fears about AI. Understanding different attitudes towards AI can lead to more versatile and efficient use and utilization of these technologies," stated researcher Bergdahl.

Atte Oksanen, a professor of social psychology and the leader of the research, highlighted the cross-country differences found in the study, which offer opportunities in the era of AI transformation.

"While the main findings regarding basic needs were similar across all six countries, Finnish respondents were more positive towards AI compared to other participating Europeans. Amid the upheaval brought about by AI, having a positive attitude towards it could benefit Finns," noted Oksanen.

The study was conducted as part of the "Urban Utopias and Dystopias: AI in Art and Society" project (Urban AI). The researchers also utilized data collected from the "Self & Technology" project, led by Professor Atte Oksanen. The Urban AI project is funded by the Kone Foundation from 2021 to 2024. It aims to explore the perceptions of AI in urban reality, examining individuals' needs, hopes, and fears related to intelligent technology and envisioning possible futures. The "Self & Technology" project, also led by Professor Atte Oksanen, is a six-country EU research initiative that focuses on Europeans' self-understanding and identity in a technologized world.