Skip to main content

Children’s Knowledge and Imaginary About Robots

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to investigate on children’s knowledge and imaginary about robots. To do so, we administered to 704 children from 17 classes of 8 elementary and secondary schools, a survey with close and open questions about their conceptualization of robots. To carry out this study we took as point of reference the theoretical framework of social representations. The main results are that children evaluate toys, robots and human-beings as significantly different on all the characteristics considered. More than toys, robots have mechanical movements, they move, are more intelligent than toys but they do not keep company to them. By contrast, human beings are perceived by children starting from their corporeity: they eat and sleep, move by themselves, are intelligent and speak, keep eye-contact and company. However, children complain about the fact that human beings do not play with them. The imaginary about robots that children receive from media is characterized by anthropomorphic shapes, bodies and by human-like cognitions, feelings and behavior. The more examples of visual products with robots children are able to evoke, the higher they evaluate robots on all human-like characteristics (e.g. it looks into my eyes). Hence, the tension between imaginary and knowledge can be confounding because the human-like features of fictional robots are more advanced than those reachable by the factual ones.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. 1.

    Batel S, Castro P (2009) A social representations approach to the communication between different spheres: an analysis of the impacts of two discursive formats. J Theory Soc Behav 39(4):415–433

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Bauer MW, Gaskell G (1999) Towards a paradigm for research on social representations. J Theory Soc Behav 29(2):163–186. doi:10.1111/1468-5914.00096

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Bicchi A, Tamburrini G (2015) Social robotics and societies of robots. Inf Soc 31(3):237–243

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Cavallo F, Limosani R, Manzi A, Bonaccorsi M, Esposito R, Rocco MD, Pecora F, Teti G, Saffiotti A, Dario P (2014) Development of a socially believable multi-robot solution from town to home. Cogn Comput 6(4):954–967. doi:10.1007/s12559-014-9290-z

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    De Rosa AS, Farr R (2001) Icon and symbol: two sides of the same coin in the investigation of social representations. In: Buschini F, Kanampalikis N (eds) Penser la vie, le social, la nature. Meélanges en hommage à Serge Moscovici, Les Editions de la Maison des Sciences de lŠHomme, Paris, pp 237–256

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Durkheim É (1924) Sociologie et Philosophie, Librairie Félix Alcan, Paris, chap Représentations individuelles et représentations collectives. Bibliothèque de philosophie contemporaine

  7. 7.

    Duveen G (1993) The development of social representations of gender. Papers Soc Represent 2(3):1–7

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Enz S, Diruf M, Spielhagen C, Zoll C, Vargas PA (2011) The social role of robots in the future—explorative measurement of hopes and fears. Int J Soc Robot 3(3):263–271. doi:10.1007/s12369-011-0094-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Eurobarometer (2012) Public attitudes towards robots. Special Eurobarometer 382. European Commission, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_382_en.pdf. Accessed March 1, 2015

  10. 10.

    Field A (2009) Discovering statistics using SPSS. SAGE Publications, London

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Fortunati L (1995) I mostri nell’immaginario. Franco Angeli, Milano

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Fortunati L (2013) Afterword: robot conceptualizations between continuity and innovation. Intervalla: Platform Intellect Exch 1:116–119

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Fortunati L, Contarello A (2002) Internet mobile convergence: via similarity or complementarity? Trends Commun 9:81–98

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Fortunati L, Manganelli AM (2008) The social representation of telecommunications. Pers Ubiquitous Comput 12(6):421–431

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Fortunati L, Esposito A, Ferrin G, Viel M (2014) Approaching social robots through playfulness and doing-it-yourself: children in action. Cogn Comput 6(4):789–801. doi:10.1007/S12559-014-9303-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Fortunati L, Esposito A, Lugano G (2015) Introduction to the special issue beyond industrial robotics: social robots entering public and domestic spheres. Inf Soc 31(3):229–236

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Frennert S, Östlund B (2014) Review: seven matters of concern of social robots and older people. Int J Soc Robot 6(2):299–310

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Gray HM, Gray K, Wegner DM (2007) Dimensions of mind perception. Science 315(5812):619. doi:10.1126/science.1134475

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Höflich J, El Bayed A (2015) Perception and acceptance of social robots—an exploratory study. In: Vincent J, Taipale S, Sapio B, Fortunati L, Lugano G (eds) Social robots from a human perspective. Springer, Berlin, pp 39–54

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Howarth C (2006) A social representation is not a quiet thing: exploring the critical potential of social representations theory. Br J Soc Psychol 45(Pt 1):65–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Jodelet D (1984) Représentations sociales: phénomènes, concepts et théorie. In: Moscovici S (ed) Psychologie sociale. PUF, Paris, pp 357–378

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Jodelet D (1989) Les reprèsentations sociales. PUF, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Joffe H (1998) Social representations and the aids field. Psychol Soc 24:21–39

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Jovchelovitch S (2002) Re-thinking the diversity of knowledge: cognitive polyphasia, belief and representation. Psychologie et société 5(1):121–138

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Moscovici S (1961) La psychanalyse, son image et son public. PUF, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Moscovici S (1973) Foreword. In: Herzlich C (ed) Health and illness: a social psychological analysis. Academic Press, London

  27. 27.

    Moscovici S (1981) On social representations. In: Forgas JP (ed) Social cognition. Academic Press, London, pp 181–224

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Moscovici S (1984) The phenomenon of social representations. In: Farr R, Moscovici S (eds) Social representations. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 3–69

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Šabanović S (2010) Robots in society. Society in robots. Int J Soc Robot 2(4):439–450

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Sensales G (1990) L’informatica nella stampa italiana: le comunicazioni di massa nel processo psico-sociale delle rappresentazioni. Franco Angeli, Milano

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Stafford RQ, MacDonald BA, Jayawardena C, Wegner DM, Broadbent E (2014) Does the robot have a mind? Mind perception and attitudes towards robots predict use of an eldercare robot. Int J Soc Robot 6(1):17–32

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Sugiyama S, Vincent J (eds) (2013) Social robots and emotion: transcending the boundary between humans and ICTs—Special issue, Intervalla: platform for intellectual exchange, vol 1

  33. 33.

    Sverre Syrdal D, Dautenhahn K, Ching Ho W, Koay KL (2015) Long-term human-robot interaction using task- and scenario-based prototyping. Inf Soc 31(3):265–283

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Taipale S, de Luca F, Sarrica M, Fortunati L (2015) Robot shift from industrial production to social reproduction. In: Vincent J, Taipale S, Sapio B, Fortunati L, Lugano G (eds) Social robots from a human perspective. Springer, Berlin, pp 11–24

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Turkle S (2012) Alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other. Basic Books, New York

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Vergés P (1991) Représentations des technologies nouvelles et détermination idéologique. In: Aebischer V, Deconchy J, Lipiansky R (eds) Idéologies et représentations sociales. De Val, Fribourg, pp 159–174

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Wagner W, Duveen G, Farr R, Jovchelovitch S, Lorenzi-Cioldi F, Markova I, Rose D (1999) Theory and method of social representations. Asian J Soc Psychol 2:95–125

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Weiss A, Igelsböck J, Wurhofer D, Tscheligi M (2011) Looking forward to a “Robotic Society”? Int J Soc Robot 3(2):111–123. doi:10.1007/s12369-010-0076-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Złotowski J, Proudfoot D, Yogeeswaran K, Bartneck C (2014) Anthropomorphism: opportunities and challenges in human–robot interaction. Int J Soc Robot pp 1–14

  40. 40.

    Złotowski JA, Sumioka H, Nishio S, Glas DF, Bartneck C, Ishiguro H (2015) Persistence of the uncanny valley: the influence of repeated interactions and a robot’s attitude on its perception. Front Psychol 6:883

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Leopoldina Fortunati.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fortunati, L., Esposito, A., Sarrica, M. et al. Children’s Knowledge and Imaginary About Robots. Int J of Soc Robotics 7, 685–695 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-015-0316-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Child imagination
  • Robots
  • Toys
  • Human beings
  • Social representations