Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Emotional responses to social robots

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Emotional responses to social robots:
What emotional responses do people have to social robots?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. This is what comes to mind when you say "social robot".

This book chapter explores the following:

  • Case study using a social robot called Kaspar for children with Autism
  • Emotion theories
  • Current research and what strategies can be used to reduce emotional responses to the social robot
  • conclusion, see also, references used and some external links.
Focus questions
  • Description of what is a social robot.
  • What are emotional responses?
  • What type of emotional responses do people have to social robots?

Case study[edit | edit source]

This case study looks at the way human-robot interaction (HRI) affects children with autism. As it is well know that “Autistic Spectrum Disorders is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them (Robins, Dautenhahn & Dickerson, 2009, p. 1). For these social difficulties see Figure 3.

Figure 2. Main impairments of autism (Robins, Dautenhahn & Dickerson, 2009)

The three autistic children involved in this case study are encouraged to interact with the HRI and social interaction with the researcher. This takes place in the United Kingdom and Germany. The HRI called Kaspar is centrally located in an environment that the children are familiar with. The children are not restrained and have freedom of movement and freedom to leave. Kaspar can move his head, eyes and lids, and arms. The special thing about Kasper is the ability to mimic social communication with verbal and nonverbal cues.

The first participant lacks the ability to interact socially and exhibits reclusive behaviour (non-talking and no eye contact). As with all people when you first meet someone you don’t know, you stay at a distance. Eventually the participant got closer to the HRI and after exploring the face of Kasper they initiated contact with the hand of the researcher.

The second participant also does not socially interact with others and remains reclusive. After introduction to Kasper this participant became more interactive with the HRI, teacher and himself. This was through physical interaction with the main focus on touching facial features.

The third participant was older has history of aggression, self-harm and reclusive. After a period of facial exploration[grammar?]. As well as being in control of the hri. This participant then showed interest in allowing others to participate in mimicry of the HRI.

After interaction with the HRI these Autistic children showed that they do have an ability to function with social awareness. This awareness is through the mimicry of facial and tactile interaction with Kasper. As well as surprising the parent and researcher with an expression of awareness that the person who is also next to Kasper should be showing a representation of the facial expression of the HRI[grammar?].

There may be an indication of this research, showing that society have suppressed physical interactions with their hands. By allowing the autistic child to explore with their hands, increases their social awareness and ability to interact with others. To see the photo interaction of these children and for more information on these case studies please click the following link. Kaspar (Robins, Dautenhahn & Dickerson, 2009)

Relevant emotion theories[edit | edit source]

  • James-Lange Theory would have you agree that emotion is physiological arousal. Due to the sympathetic nervous system causing the flight or fight response[grammar?]. Thus you would not feel the emotion of fear of a situation until after the arousal has taken place.
  • Cannon-Bard Theory argues that yes arousal occurs as well as emotional experience happening individually but at the same time.
  • Schachter-Singer two-factor Theory such as physiological and cognitive. Thus you get the arousal and the brain produces the emotion.
  • Lazarus Cognitive-mediational Theory is an unconscious appraisal. Thus you have the stimulus then the appraisal and then the emotional/physiological response.

What are social robots?[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. This is a Robot. Not what you were expecting was it?

Social robots have come a long way from the 20th century. Today they may be full of electrical wiring and hardware on the inside, but with the recent application of silicone outer skin[grammar?]. They are becoming closer to the Terminator franchise without computer graphics playing a major role. Today social robots range from educational, health and even in a Japanese hotel the reception staff. You may even have one in your home and not know it. Hey Google/Alexa/amazon dot.

“We define socially assistive robotics (SAR) as the intersection of AR and SIR. SAR shares with assistive robotics the goal to provide assistance to human users, but it specifies that the assistance is through social interaction. Because of the emphasis on social interaction, SAR has a similar focus as SIR. In SIR, the robot’s goal is to develop close and effective interactions with the human for the sake of interaction itself. In contrast, in SAR, the robot’s goal is to create close and effective interaction with a human user for the purpose of giving assistance and achieving measurable progress in convalescence, rehabilitation, learning, etc”  (Feil-Seifer and Matari´c, 2005, p. 465)

According to Goodrige and Schultz (2007) “It is worth noting that cognitive psychology and social psychology offer perspectives and insights that are distinct from traditional human factors. There is a trend in HRI to include cognitive and social scientists in collaborative research efforts with roboticists, human factors engineers, and experts in human–computer interaction” (p 249). Breazeal (2003) and Duffy (2003) suggest that an important aspect of a social robot is they need to be anthropomorphic, ability[grammar?] to engage and provide entertainment. The use of robotic nurse maids, robotic pets even NASA is working on an assistant in space known as a robonaut in form of a humanoid[factual?].

Although we currently do have autonomous robots in heavy industry, a social robot will need to understand human social intelligence like with Kismet (Machiavellian Intelligence). Kismet uses infant style play in the social interaction with a person.

The following are some of the requirements a social robot will need to accomplish:

  •     self-deciding
  •     social ques such as gaze, gestures, head and neck movement, expressions appropriate for both verbal and nonverbal        communication
  •     able to benefit from the interaction by learning new gestures and communication ques
  •     proactive in exploring  behaviour, spontaneous and believable
  •     emotions, feelings and empathy for social bonding
  •     symbolization
  •     imitation to learn social ques to be able to grow from child to adult
  •     become  individualistic and n reset switch
  •     social interactions aid in knowledge of body image of self and others as part of human social exchange
  •     aversion and attachment
  •     self-aware and others aware
  •     rational
  •     have a life span and self interest
  •     ability to recognize as being art of the group

(Fong, Nourbakhsh, Dautenhahn 2003)

What are emotional responses?[edit | edit source]

Emotional responses are made up of Arousal, Appraisal Theory and Experience

With these emotional responses experience with social robots will lessen and negative emotion responses.

What emotional responses do people have to social robots?[edit | edit source]

When first encountering a robot people have a range of emotions. What accounts for this range is, age, ethnicity, appearance of the robot. The more human the robot the more people feel comfortable. In the study conducted by Heerink, Krose, Evers and Wielinga (2010) forty elderly people were introduced to a Philips made interactive cat (iCat). iCat is able to express emotional facial behaviour. According to Heerink, et.el.[grammar?] (2010) "There is a clear pattern of more conversational expressiveness, a higher frequency of non-verbal behaviors, of participants that were in conversation with the robot in a more social condition" (p. 82). The study used a Likert scale questionnaire and observations to to gather positive and negative responses by the elderly participant. This study shows that the elderly highly respond to a social robot. Some want to use iCat in their lives, demonstrates acceptance of a robot that can show expressive emotion and also carry a conversation. However some elderly do have negative responses. These responses are such as distancing themselves, negative facial and body language. For an in-depth look at this study please check the following link. Relating conversational expressiveness to social presence and acceptance of an assistive social robot

Some of these robots are also care bots such as nursebot Pearl, Italian robocare programme and care-o-bot (Broekens, Heerink, & Rosendal, 2009). Some want to use it in their lives, demonstrating acceptance of a robot that can show expressive emotion and also carry a conversationPictogram voting comment.svg repeated from above?. However some elderly do have a negative response such as distancing themselves, negative facial and body languagePictogram voting comment.svg repeated from above?

Theme parks use robots in a constrained interaction with humans. These theme park social robots have been wildly[say what?] accepted[factual?]. This is verified by people staying and interacting and not go running off in distress.

Children are more accepting due to toys, such as Aibo and a hamster style furby. The toys[grammar?] behaviour adjusts the more they are used in play time (children nurturing this toy). People show nurturing and acceptance through the use of tomogoichis by making sure the pet stays alive. Kismet is accepted in experimental situations as demonstrated by the person who talks too fast change in the sentence length to match Kismet’s. This exchange between Kismet and the person conversation starts as a bad exchange of social conversation, but both Kismet and the person end up changing the conversation rate and produce a smoothly social interaction. (Brezeal)

Dautenhahn (1995) suggests greater human acceptance in the social area to have a more human like communication ability than in a human like appearance. Acceptance of a social robot by people is greatly increased if the robot can anticipate the person’s behaviour and treat the person as an individual. Nursery robots that can show that they have welfare of others would be accepted by people concerned about the safety. With the robot having the ability to know that actions have consequences resulting in increased self-awareness and self-aware of others people are more receptive to the robot.

Current Research[edit | edit source]

Today research is trying to make robots as human looking and speaking as possible. One study is looking at a process for artificial intelligence functioning with operant conditioning. Other research such as found with the above case study are seeking to enable autistic children be able to communicate with others due to Kaspar. Other research is looking at whether elderly would be accepting of a facial and vocal expressive social robot (iCat)

Human interaction and robots

Figure 4: People interaction with various robots in today’s society (design by me idea from Sim & Loo 2015)

Image of Social service robot by Image by free-photos at

Image of a social service robot pepper by Image by Tekelua at

Image of industry robot by PIRO4D at

Image of non-assistive robot by Vinson Tan at

Image of companion robot furby by Ferby

Possible strategies to reduce negative emotional responses[edit | edit source]

  • education of the public about advancement in robot engineering.
  • exposure to documentaries about robot encounters people may have.
  • Avoidance in conspiracy theories.
  • Provide support

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The advancements in robotics and the wonderful work being done to aid autistic children is promising. Future exploration even in space may be AI[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Heerink, Kröse, Evers and Wielinga (2009) (2010) suggest that with the shortage of workers in the care industry that people may need to acclimatize to having a robot for activities of daily living (ADLS). Also the use of social robots to aid with companionship[grammar?]. I do not think that AI will overtake the world while I am alive. But if the human race continues at the pace it is going. Not looking after resources and the earth we live on maybe one day we will go the way of the Dinosaurs.

“The most 'intelligent' species live in complex social systems with a high degree of stability during long periods of time. The idea that robots (worldwide) recognize each other as belonging to the same 'species', and would agree on attacking or suppressing the 'human species' seems to us as speculative as assuming this kind of behavior for birds. Instead, human families keeping dogs or cats are our alternative suggestion for a model of (most often) successful multi-species societies.”

(Dautenhahn, 1995, p 353)

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Breazeal, C. (2003). Toward sociable robots. Robotics And Autonomous Systems, 42(3-4), 167-175. doi: 10.1016/s0921-8890(02)00373-1

Broekens, J., Heerink, M., & Rosendal, H. (2009). Assistive social robots in elderly care: a review. Gerontechnology, 8(2). doi: 10.4017/gt.2009.

Dautenhahn, K. (1995). Getting to know each other—Artificial social intelligence for autonomous robots. Robotics And Autonomous Systems, 16(2-4), 333-356. doi: 10.1016/0921-8890(95)00054-2

Duffy, B. (2003). Anthropomorphism and the social robot. Robotics And Autonomous Systems, 42(3-4), 177-190. doi: 10.1016/s0921-8890(02)00374-3

Feil-Seifer, D., & Mataric, M. (2005). Defining Socially Assistive Robotics. In 9th International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (pp. 465 - 468). Los Angeles: University of California.

Fong, T., Nourbakhsh, I., & Dautenhahn, K. (2003). A survey of socially interactive robots. Robotics And Autonomous Systems, 42(3-4), 143-166. doi: 10.1016/s0921-8890(02)00372-x

Goodrich, M., & Schultz, A. (2007). Human-Robot Interaction: A Survey. Foundations And Trends® In Human-Computer Interaction, 1(3), 203-275. doi: 10.1561/1100000005

Heerink, M., Kröse, B., Evers, V., & Wielinga, B. (2010). Assessing Acceptance of Assistive Social Agent Technology by Older Adults: the Almere Model. International Journal Of Social Robotics, 2(4), 361-375. doi: 10.1007/s12369-010-0068-5

Heerink, M., Krose, B., Evers, V., & Wielinga, B. (2009). Measuring acceptance of an assistive social robot: a suggested toolkit. In The 18th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication Toyama (pp. 528 - 533). Japan: WeIAH.18.

Heerink, M., Kröse, B., Evers, V., & Wielinga, B. (2009). Relating conversational expressiveness to social presence and acceptance of an assistive social robot. Virtual Reality, 14(1), 77-84. doi: 10.1007/s10055-009-0142-1

Robins, B., Dautenhahn, K., & Dickerson, P. (2009, February). From isolation to communication: a case study evaluation of robot assisted play for children with autism with a minimally expressive humanoid robot. In 2009 Second International Conferences on Advances in Computer-Human Interactions (pp. 205-211). IEEE

Sim, D., & Loo, C. (2015). Extensive assessment and evaluation methodologies on assistive social robots for modelling human–robot interaction – A review. Information Sciences, 301(20 April), 305-344. doi: 10.1016/j.ins.2014.12.017

External links[edit | edit source]