Presentation Type

Poster

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Rachel Severson

Faculty Mentor’s Department

Psychology

Abstract

Children attribute a unique constellation of animate and inanimate characteristics to personified robots, e.g., judging them to have emotions, thoughts, and capable of being a friend, while also being a piece of technology. Do children truly believe robots have animate characteristics or are they just engaging in pretend play? The latter is certainly plausible as children readily endow objects with personas. The present study sought to address this question by investigating children’s judgments and behavioral interactions with a robot compared to a stuffed animal (a classic object of pretense). Ninety participants (5, 7, and 9 years) engaged with each entity (counterbalanced order) during a familiarization period, free play, and an interview probing their attributions to each entity. We coded children’s judgments during the interview and their behavioral interactions with the entity (e.g., endowing animation, attempts at reciprocity). We predicted that if children are engaging in pretense, their judgments should align with pretend behaviors (e.g., saying the robot can move on its own, and then endowing it with animation). Whereas, if children’s attributions reflect their veridical beliefs, their judgments should align with reciprocal interactions (e.g., saying the robot can move on its own, and beckoning the robot to come). By using convergent measures (judgments and behaviors), we gain confidence in how children understand each entity. Our next step is to analyze the results of this study. The results will help determine whether children’s attributions to robots are a product of pretense or reflect their actual beliefs. In turn, these results will (1) have bearing on the hypothesis that robots may represent a new ontological category (i.e., straddling the boundary between animates and inanimates), and (2) inform on the potential implications of increasingly pervasive personified technologies on children’s pretense and their developing conceptions of the world.

Category

Social Sciences

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Apr 27th, 3:00 PM Apr 27th, 4:00 PM

Children’s Understanding of Robots: A New Ontological Category or Just Pretend?

UC South Ballroom

Children attribute a unique constellation of animate and inanimate characteristics to personified robots, e.g., judging them to have emotions, thoughts, and capable of being a friend, while also being a piece of technology. Do children truly believe robots have animate characteristics or are they just engaging in pretend play? The latter is certainly plausible as children readily endow objects with personas. The present study sought to address this question by investigating children’s judgments and behavioral interactions with a robot compared to a stuffed animal (a classic object of pretense). Ninety participants (5, 7, and 9 years) engaged with each entity (counterbalanced order) during a familiarization period, free play, and an interview probing their attributions to each entity. We coded children’s judgments during the interview and their behavioral interactions with the entity (e.g., endowing animation, attempts at reciprocity). We predicted that if children are engaging in pretense, their judgments should align with pretend behaviors (e.g., saying the robot can move on its own, and then endowing it with animation). Whereas, if children’s attributions reflect their veridical beliefs, their judgments should align with reciprocal interactions (e.g., saying the robot can move on its own, and beckoning the robot to come). By using convergent measures (judgments and behaviors), we gain confidence in how children understand each entity. Our next step is to analyze the results of this study. The results will help determine whether children’s attributions to robots are a product of pretense or reflect their actual beliefs. In turn, these results will (1) have bearing on the hypothesis that robots may represent a new ontological category (i.e., straddling the boundary between animates and inanimates), and (2) inform on the potential implications of increasingly pervasive personified technologies on children’s pretense and their developing conceptions of the world.