Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence introduce increasingly capable robots to society. Such skilled robots bring into question the importance of an object’s capabilities in determining its animacy. This is particularly salient among children, who make the most mistakes in distinguishing animate and inanimate objects. It is common for children to give inanimate objects animate traits; in this way, able-bodied robots could become “animate”. The purpose of this study is to address whether or not providing an object with enough behavioral and intellectual capabilities can change the object’s animacy. A total of 90 children (ages 3, 5, and 7) will interact with either a human or a robot that displays different levels of ability. Following each interaction period, children will be asked to attribute biological and psychological characteristics to the person or robot. Because children have been shown to link animacy with certain traits, the addition (or subtraction) of enough of these traits may come to change the overall animacy of the object.
Kocher, Deanna, "Children’s Concept of Animacy: The Humanoid Robot and the Robotic Human" (2017). The Libraries Student Research Prize. 11.