Saying thank you to express gratitude for an act of kindness is one of the first rules of human interaction that we teach our children.

With the addition of please, these phrases create the basis of how humans empathetically interact with each other and forms an embedded tradition designed to help societies to run smoothly.

These manners, however, may be dying out as a new study shows that people are only thanking each other once in every 20 events.

Published this week in the journal Royal Society Open Science the research looked at how language was used, using unattended cameras set up in homes and communities over five continents.


Monitoring casual daily interactions with people who knew each other they found that an expression of gratitude was only given 5 per cent of the time.

The most polite group were the English-speaking group from the UK, who said thank you 14 per cent of the time, whereas the Ecuadorian Cha'palaa-speaking group never thanked another person in any of their recorded conversations.

Most of the people who asked for help received it, and when a person couldn't help them they provided an explanation as to why.

Although not thanking another person seems rude, this may have been due to the existing personal connections and social setting of the groups in the study, meaning that verbal gratitude wasn't expected.

The results may have been very different if the researchers had filmed a formal business setting with participants that didn't know each other.

These unwritten politeness rules are also being challenged with the surge in voice-activated personal gadgets.

The use of Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa and Google's Home devices mean that children now chat to their device in the same way they would another human, asking it to do everything from turning on their bedroom light switches to answering their homework questions.

These human-digital connections create questions about what the social and ethical norms should be between people and smart machines.

Children can demand that a digital assistant do anything they want, with no need for politeness.

This expectation for instantaneous response and a lack of empathy for robotic devices may lead to the next generation believing that social airs and graces are just a waste of time.

A study carried out by researchers at Osaka University found that a robot called Robovie2 was bullied and abused by children when placed in a shopping mall.

The robot would politely ask any humans in its way to move aside so it could pass, and if they refused, the robot would just go the other way.

The researchers found that when the robot came across unsupervised young children, they would deliberately obstruct the robot and often escalated their behaviour to verbally and physically abusing the robot by bending its neck and hitting its head with a bottle.

Our adult instincts to uphold common codes of conduct are important to how we function socially with each other. However, it seems that a lack of empathy towards machines and increased child interactions with digital devices may mean that the next generation doesn't uphold these good habits.

To try and address this issue Google recently announced a new feature called Pretty Please which results in their artificially intelligent smart home devices responding positively to polite manners. It even prompts children to say the magic word when they give a command.

In a world where manners are fading, ironically it seems that the advancement of maintaining social reciprocity within humans might actually come from a computer training our children on how to behave.