Children use non-verbal cues to learn new words from robots as well as people

Kory Westlund., J. M., Dickens, L., Jeong, S., Harris, P. L., DeSteno, D., & Breazeal, C. L. (2017). Children use non-verbal cues to learn new words from robots as well as people. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction.


Social robots are innovative new technologies that have considerable potential to support children’s education as tutors and learning companions. Given this potential, it behooves us to study the mechanisms by which children learn from social robots, as well as the similarities and differences between children’s learning from robots as compared to human partners. In the present study, we examined whether young children will attend to the same nonverbal social cues from a robot as from a human partner during a word learning task, specifically gaze and bodily orientation to an unfamiliar referent. Thirty-six children viewed images of unfamiliar animals with a human and with a robot. The interlocutor (human or robot) oriented toward, and provided names for, some of the animals, and children were given a posttest to assess their recall of the names. We found that children performed equally well on the recall test whether they had been provided with names by the robot or by the human. Moreover, in each case, their performance was constrained by the spatial distinctiveness of nonverbal orientation cues available to determine which animal was being referred to during naming.
Related Content