ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (12): 2319-2336.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.02319

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New playmates in the age of intelligence: Characteristics of children’s interactions with robots and their impact on child development

DENG Shichang1, LIN Zihan1, LU Yuqian2, LI Xiangqian3()   

  1. 1School of Management, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai 201620, China
    2Shanghai Qiyin Information Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai 200080, China
    3School of Psychology, Shanghai Sport University, Shanghai 200438, China
  • Received:2023-01-09 Online:2023-12-15 Published:2023-09-11


In recent years, with the surge in human-computer interaction research, children as a distinct user group have gained significant attention from researchers, leading to numerous studies on Child-Robots Interaction (CRI). Research in this domain can be summarized into three main processes: children's understanding of robots, their interaction with robots, and the impact of such interactions on children's development.

Firstly, children's understanding of robots can be categorized into observation, exploration, and comprehension phases. During the observation phase, the visual characteristics of robots make a profound impression on children, with anthropomorphic robots being particularly appealing to them. Concurrently, the social cues exhibited by robots stimulate children's interest and positive sentiments. In the exploration phase, children start to understand the functionalities of robots through basic interactions and delve further into their applications with guidance from adults. By the comprehension phase, while younger children might perceive robots as living entities, as they age and their cognition develops, they gradually discern the differences between robots and living organisms.

Secondly, during the interaction phase, children's nascent understanding of robots inclines them to engage more deeply, viewing robots as companions. Owing to children's more open-minded stance towards robots, their interactions are characterized by affection, protection, seeking guidance, emotional exchange, and even attachment. However, on the flip side, given that children's cognitive and judgmental abilities are not fully developed, they might treat excessively compliant robots in a negative manner.

Lastly, interactions with robots have had a positive influence on children's development. Robots offer an engaging, interactive, relaxed, and feedback-rich learning environment, facilitating the growth of children's cognition and metacognition. Moreover, as educational tools, robots present novel opportunities for children's learning, aiding them in gaining a deeper understanding of subjects. However, while interactions with robots may bolster children's social skills to some extent, robots cannot entirely replace genuine human companions. Robots that can't offer candid feedback might adversely impact children's social perceptions.

Regarding the CRI domain, several research challenges and questions remain. In terms of study design, future research should emphasize the differences in children's ages, adopting longitudinal tracking and cross-cultural comparisons. Methodologically, traditional evaluation methods, like questionnaires, may not wholly capture children's genuine perspectives, necessitating the development of more appropriate assessment tools. In terms of content, future studies should delve deeper into children's interactions with robots across various settings, particularly focusing on interactions in private environments, and further explore the underlying reasons and associated ethical issues.

Key words: children, robots, human-robot interaction, child development

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