Washington: On comparing how adults and children respond to similar tasks when they are in the presence of both their peers and humanoid robots, interestingly, robots were found to influence children's opinions more, a new study reveals.
The study shows that adults regularly have their opinions influenced by peers but they are largely able to resist being persuaded by robots. However, children aged from seven to nine years are more likely to give the same responses as the robots, even if they are incorrect.
The study used the Asch paradigm, which was developed in the1950s and asked people to look at a screen showing four lines and say which two match in length. When alone, people almost never made a mistake but when they were doing the experiments with others, they tended to follow what others were saying.
When children were alone in the room in this research, they scored about 87% on the test, but when they were joined by the robots, their score dropped to 75%. Of the wrong answers, 74% matched with those of the robots.
Scientists said that the study provided an interesting insight into how robots could be used positively within society, but they also said that it does raise some concerns about how robots have a negative influence on vulnerable young children.
Researcher Anna Vollmer said, "People often follow the opinions of others and we've known for a long time that it is hard to resist taking over views and opinions of people around us. We know this as conformity. But as robots will soon be found in the home and the workplace, we were wondering if people would conform to robots."
The researchers have worked extensively to explore the positive impact robots can have in health and education settings. They led the four-year ALIZ-E programme, which showed that social robots can help diabetic children accept the nature of their condition. They are now working on designing a robot that can be used to support preschool children learning a second language.
The research was led by former Plymouth researcher Anna Vollmer, now a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Bielefeld.
The findings were published in the journal Science Robotics.