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How children feel about robots

This weekend at the Ninth Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society, I presented the preliminary results of my research exploring how children think about robots.

Robots are increasingly a part of children’s lives. They can be found teaching in classrooms, working in hospitals, and giving tours in museums. This research project looks at what children think about these robots. To find out, we showed 4- to 12-year-old children videos of either a machine-like or a human-like robot and then we asked them a series of questions about those robots. Can the robot be hungry? Can the robot be scared? Does the robot know the difference between right and wrong?

After viewing the video, young children reported that they believed that both robots had thoughts and that the robots could experience pain, emotions, and hunger. Even the machine-like robot could have feelings! Children of all ages reported that the human-like robot knew the difference between good and bad behavior. However, older children did not believe that the machine-like robot knew the difference between good and bad while younger children did.

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