Author

Sophie Davis

Date of Award

5-21-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Amanda Brandone

Abstract

With the recent boom in artificial intelligence and robotics, social robots are being increasingly used as therapeutic devices for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These social robots are thought to be effective because of their object-like simplicity combined with human- like social behaviors. Researchers have found that social robots have a multitude of beneficial outcomes for children with ASD, including increased engagement, the emergence of new social behaviors, and reduced social anxiety. However, despite their growing use as therapeutic devices within this community, surprisingly little is known about how children with ASD interpret social robots. To explore this question, in the current study, six 7- to 10-year-olds with ASD and five typically developing 6- and 7-year-olds interacted with a social robot and then answered a series of questions about its physiological, perceptual, cognitive, and social-emotional properties. For comparison, questions were also asked about a child and a dog. Results revealed that both children with ASD and typically developing children endorsed properties of all types for the child and, to a lesser extent, for the dog. However, children gave more varied responses to questions about the robot suggesting that both children with ASD and typically developing children show confusion about how to interpret robots displaying social cues. Results are discussed in light of what they tell us about children with ASD’s conceptual development and what they mean for the use of social robots in intervention.

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