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Do children trust robots too much?

Maybe, but more study is needed, say researchers

From ScienceNews we learn that, according to a recent study, children repeated “the incorrect but unanimous responses of a group of robots to a simple visual task”:

The study’s 43 participating British grade-schoolers, aged 7 to 9, agreed with three-quarters of the robots’ unanimous, inaccurate answers. The kids did not participate in conformity experiments with trios of same-age human peers, given the difficulty of getting youngsters to act convincingly according to researchers’ directions.

Still, larger samples of volunteers are needed to confirm that kids usually cave to social pressure from robots. Cultural factors, such as being raised in a society that emphasizes individualism or group values, also may influence how people of all ages perceive and react to social robots. Bruce Bower, “Children may be especially vulnerable to peer pressure from robots” at ScienceNews

In any event, children could easily give in to peer pressure from other children to give an incorrect answer in place of a correct one. How much difference it makes that the pressure is supplied by a robotic device would surely depend on how the child is taught to see robots in the first place.

Here’s the Abstract:

People are known to change their behavior and decisions to conform to others, even for obviously incorrect facts. Because of recent developments in artificial intelligence and robotics, robots are increasingly found in human environments, and there, they form a novel social presence. It is as yet unclear whether and to what extent these social robots are able to exert pressure similar to human peers. This study used the Asch paradigm, which shows how participants conform to others while performing a visual judgment task. We first replicated the finding that adults are influenced by their peers but showed that they resist social pressure from a group of small humanoid robots. Next, we repeated the study with 7- to 9-year-old children and showed that children conform to the robots. This raises opportunities as well as concerns for the use of social robots with young and vulnerable cross-sections of society; although conforming can be beneficial, the potential for misuse and the potential impact of erroneous performance cannot be ignored. (paywall) – Anna-Lisa Vollmer, Robin Read, Dries Trippas and Tony Belpaeme, Children conform, adults resist: A robot group induced peer pressure on normative social conformity, Science Robotics 15 Aug 2018: Vol. 3, Issue 21, eaat7111 DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aat7111

See also: A politically correct chatbot is truly annoying: If you are a human being who talks to people for a living, don’t quit your job

Do children trust robots too much?