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Cognition. 2005 Apr;95(3):B49-57. Epub 2005 Jan 5.

Can we talk to robots? Ten-month-old infants expected interactive humanoid robots to be talked to by persons.

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  • 1Department of General Systems Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Science, The University of Tokyo, c/o Dr K Hiraki, 3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan.


As technology advances, many human-like robots are being developed. Although these humanoid robots should be classified as objects, they share many properties with human beings. This raises the question of how infants classify them. Based on the looking-time paradigm used by [Legerstee, M., Barna, J., & DiAdamo, C., (2000). Precursors to the development of intention at 6 months: understanding people and their actions. Developmental Psychology, 36, 5, 627-634.], we investigated whether 10-month-old infants expected people to talk to a humanoid robot. In a familiarization period, each infant observed an actor and an interactive robot behaving like a human, a non-interactive robot remaining stationary, and a non-interactive robot behaving like a human. In subsequent test trials, the infants were shown another actor talking to the robot and to the actor. We found that infants who had previously observed the interactive robot showed no difference in looking-time between the two types of test events. Infants in the other conditions, however, looked longer at the test event where the second experimenter talked to the robot rather than where the second experimenter talked to the person. These results suggest that infants interpret the interactive robot as a communicative agent and the non-interactive robot as an object. Our findings imply that infants categorize interactive humanoid robots as a kind of human being.

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