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Science: Robots simulate social exclusion with children

Science: Robots simulate social exclusion with children

A team of researchers from Higher Technical Institute In March, he presented a study with five- to 10-year-old children to observe how they reacted to seeing other children being excluded by robots during a cooperative game. Even as bystanders, the children felt excluded and powerless, but they showed higher levels of cooperation and mutual assistance toward other children. Surprisingly, the children remain curious and show interest in playing with the robots, even after watching the ostracism scenes on video.

In the study, the researchers filmed a video in which two robots and a child played with a ball. At first, they passed the ball among themselves, but during the experiment, the robots passed the ball to the child less and less. By manipulating these interactions, the researchers simulated a social exclusion scenario, where the robots excluded the child from the activity. “This method allowed us to understand how children react when they observe exclusion in a controlled experimental setting,” says lead researcher Philippa Correa, a researcher at Institute of Interactive Technologies.

The researchers recorded different reactions from the children after the study. “The results indicate that children who observed exclusion reported lower levels of belonging and control than children who observed inclusion,” Philippa Correa added. Furthermore, they showed more prosocial behaviors toward other children than those who experienced inclusion, suggesting a search for acceptance and strengthened bonds after experiencing exclusion.

Despite the negative effects, the children were surprisingly willing to play with the same robots after the study, which may indicate a complex interplay between negative experiences and the novelty effect of playing with the robots.

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The study also raises important ethical considerations about the manufacture and use of social robots in environments where children are present. The team highlights the need for responsible practices in developing child-friendly robotics technologies. “If Siri mistakenly understands a group of children except for one child, even if this is not an intended trait, the child may feel excluded, which may change their feelings and actions toward other children and adults,” says Philippa Correa. This awareness can guide policy makers, designers and educators, ensuring the safe and beneficial integration of robots into educational and social contexts.

This study was supervised by him Institute of Interactive Technologies And by INESC IDIn collaboration with Reichmann University (Israel) and supported by the Science and Technology Foundation, Horizon Europe Project Citizens And the PRR project Electronic games lab.

Daniel da Costa Ribeiro

Scientific communication