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Children’s evaluations of a therapy dog and biomimetic robot: influences of animistic beliefs and social interaction

Children’s evaluations of a therapy dog and biomimetic robot: influences of animistic beliefs and social interaction
Children’s evaluations of a therapy dog and biomimetic robot: influences of animistic beliefs and social interaction

Social robots are being used increasingly across a range of settings, including in the context of therapeutic interactions with children. While research has shown that interaction with live therapy dogs can be calming and enjoyable for children, it is currently unclear whether social robots can produce similar outcomes. In this study, 11–12-year old children completed a questionnaire about their biophilic beliefs and attitudes to dogs and robots before engaging in two separate free-play, non-goal directed, non-therapeutic sessions with an interactive biomimetic MiRo-E robot and a living therapy dog in a controlled setting. Behavioural observations of social interaction, initiation and reaction behaviours by the child and dog/robot showed that participants spent a similar amount of time engaging in positive social touch with the robot and the dog, but overall more time interacting with the robot. This may be because the robot was more responsive to the children’s initiation behaviours. In self-report, participants significantly preferred the session with the living dog. However, overall enjoyment was high and more positive emotions were reported following interaction with the robot. The more participants attributed mental attributes and animacy to the dog/robot, the more they enjoyed the interactions, demonstrating that participants’ animistic beliefs were an important factor in their evaluations. Levels of social interaction did not correlate with enjoyment, suggesting that the nature of the interaction was less important than pre-existing participant attitudes in producing reported positive outcomes. Although there were some differences in behaviour and evaluations, these preliminary results suggest that MiRo-E provides a useful comparison to therapy dogs and may be a suitable alternative for use in interventions with children.

Animal assisted activities, Human–animal interactions, Human–robot interactions, MiRO, Robot assisted activities, Therapy dog
1875-4791
Barber, Olivia
24857c11-a60c-49d0-ae5a-dbd2654336cf
Somogyi, Eszter
45d8ff64-b342-4754-b0c6-d0f6b4b55fe7
Mcbride, Anne E.
8f13b829-a141-4b67-b2d7-08f839972646
Proops, Leanne
c7cf2ca5-ca38-4678-a976-4e2ad6a61307
Barber, Olivia
24857c11-a60c-49d0-ae5a-dbd2654336cf
Somogyi, Eszter
45d8ff64-b342-4754-b0c6-d0f6b4b55fe7
Mcbride, Anne E.
8f13b829-a141-4b67-b2d7-08f839972646
Proops, Leanne
c7cf2ca5-ca38-4678-a976-4e2ad6a61307

Barber, Olivia, Somogyi, Eszter, Mcbride, Anne E. and Proops, Leanne (2020) Children’s evaluations of a therapy dog and biomimetic robot: influences of animistic beliefs and social interaction. International Journal of Social Robotics. (doi:10.1007/s12369-020-00722-0).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Social robots are being used increasingly across a range of settings, including in the context of therapeutic interactions with children. While research has shown that interaction with live therapy dogs can be calming and enjoyable for children, it is currently unclear whether social robots can produce similar outcomes. In this study, 11–12-year old children completed a questionnaire about their biophilic beliefs and attitudes to dogs and robots before engaging in two separate free-play, non-goal directed, non-therapeutic sessions with an interactive biomimetic MiRo-E robot and a living therapy dog in a controlled setting. Behavioural observations of social interaction, initiation and reaction behaviours by the child and dog/robot showed that participants spent a similar amount of time engaging in positive social touch with the robot and the dog, but overall more time interacting with the robot. This may be because the robot was more responsive to the children’s initiation behaviours. In self-report, participants significantly preferred the session with the living dog. However, overall enjoyment was high and more positive emotions were reported following interaction with the robot. The more participants attributed mental attributes and animacy to the dog/robot, the more they enjoyed the interactions, demonstrating that participants’ animistic beliefs were an important factor in their evaluations. Levels of social interaction did not correlate with enjoyment, suggesting that the nature of the interaction was less important than pre-existing participant attitudes in producing reported positive outcomes. Although there were some differences in behaviour and evaluations, these preliminary results suggest that MiRo-E provides a useful comparison to therapy dogs and may be a suitable alternative for use in interventions with children.

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Barber et al Social Robotics paper Oct 2020 accepted FINAL - Accepted Manuscript - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 26 October 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 9 December 2020
Published date: 9 December 2020
Keywords: Animal assisted activities, Human–animal interactions, Human–robot interactions, MiRO, Robot assisted activities, Therapy dog

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 450624
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/450624
ISSN: 1875-4791
PURE UUID: 130c75bb-0776-4c7e-9aa1-9ea785f5ffea

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Date deposited: 05 Aug 2021 16:31
Last modified: 27 Apr 2022 08:06

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Contributors

Author: Olivia Barber
Author: Eszter Somogyi
Author: Anne E. Mcbride
Author: Leanne Proops

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