The man and the machine : do children learn from and transmit tool-use knowledge acquired from a robot in ways that are comparable to a human model?

10 May 2021

Abstract: Robots are an increasingly prevalent presence in children’s lives. However, little is known about the ways in which children learn from robots and whether they do so in the same way as they learn from humans. To investigate this, we adapted a previously established imitation paradigm centered on inefficient tool use. Children (3- to 6-year-olds; N = 121) were measured on their acquisition and transmission of normative knowledge modeled by a human or a robot. Children were more likely to adopt use of a normative tool and to transmit this knowledge to another when shown how to do so by the human than when shown how to do so by the robot. Older children (5- and 6-year-olds) were less likely than younger children (3- and 4-year-olds) to select the normative tool. Our findings suggest that preschool children are capable of copying and transmitting normative techniques from both human and robot models, albeit at different rates and dependent on age.