A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

Robot Dog Teaches Right From Wrong

Robot dog teaches right from wrong

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—Roomba, Siri, Alexa, Furby toys: These are everyday devices or applications that seem to have a mind of their own. But can these devices help your child determine right from wrong? A new study examines children’s behavior when they are introduced to a robot dog.

Vacuuming crumbs off the floor, making you the perfect cup of coffee, even helping you find the quickest way to get to work—today, technology is intertwined into every aspect of our lives. But how are self-directing technologies impacting your kids? Researchers at Boston College and the University of Washington asked 80 five- and seven-year-olds to interact with a robot dog for five minutes. The kids were split into two groups where the robot dog was either being controlled by remote or moving independently.

When asked if it would be wrong to hurt the robot dog, kids in both groups said they felt that it would be wrong, but for different reasons. The group that saw the dog being controlled by a remote said they didn’t want to hurt the dog because they would get in trouble. The group that saw the robot dog move independently didn’t want to hurt the dog because it would upset him. The researchers found that the kids who saw the dog moving on its own had higher emotional regard for the dog. This suggests that children who saw the robot as autonomous may also be learning care-taking behaviors, while the robots controlled by the remote may promote cognitive learning or problem solving.

About half of the kids in the study had a real dog at home. The kids that had a dog at home were more likely to be prosocial toward the autonomous dog.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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