Robots can significantly influence children's opinions

Posted Aug 19, 2018 by Tim Sandle
New research has shown how robots have the power to significantly influence children's opinions, with children being far more open to influence than adults after interacting with a machine.
Robots being developed at the Salford Institute for Dementia
Robots being developed at the Salford Institute for Dementia
University of Salford Press Office
According to a study from the University of Plymouth, U.K., younger children are far more likely than adults or older children to have their opinions and decisions influenced by robots. This was based on research using the Asch paradigm. This research technique asks people to look at a screen showing four lines and it requires the person to identify two lines match in length. When running the test alone, people rarely make a mistake. However, when the experiment is run with others, people often follow what others are saying. The new research looked at the influence of peers and robots, and ran the study with adults and children.
For the study, researchers looked at how adults and children responded to an identical task when in the presence of their peers and humanoid robots. The results demonstrated that although adults often have their opinions influenced by other adults, they are generally able to resist being influenced by robots.
In contrast, children of the ages seven to nine, are far more likely to be influenced by robots, even where the responses provided by robots are obviously incorrect. When children were alone in the room they scored 87 percent with the test. However, when robots joined in the score fell to 75 percent. Here most of the wrong answers given matched those provided by a robot.
The concern with the research is that as robots become more widespread, there is the potential for robots to have a negative influence on vulnerable young children.
In related news, a study of symbiotic human-robot interactions from the Japan Science and Technology Agency has been undertaken to develop improved 'conversational robots'. Researchers have been designed to create a robot that possess a much higher degree of human-like presence than any comparable robot today.
The new research has been published in the journal Science Robotics. The research is titled "Children conform, adults resist: A robot group induced peer pressure on normative social conformity."