New Study finds Children to be More Comfortable Telling a Robot of their Mental Health Issues
The findings show that robots play a much broader role in assessing mental health in children than previously believed...
New studies from Cambridge University have found that children are more trusting and comfortable with a childlike robot responding to mental health assessments than their parents (in some cases of course). Some of the children even shared information they would never have or never did share with their parents before. In the sense of the future, children have given a very positive outlook on interactive technologies.
The findings show that robots play a much broader role in assessing mental health in children than previously believed. Cambridge University researchers warned, however, that they [Robots] aren’t intended to replace professional mental health support but can eventually play a massive role in breaking the ice.
“Traditional methods sometimes fail to detect mental wellness disorders in children because the changes are sometimes incredibly subtle. We wanted to see if robots could help with this process.”
Nida Itrat Abbasi, the main author of the study, said.
28 children, aged 8 to 13, participated in a 45-minute session with a humanoid robot called Nao. The robot has a child’s voice and started off the conversation with an icebreaker and fist bumps to generate a comfortable environment for the children. After setting the tone, the robot would ask about happy and sad memories from the past week, feelings tied to those memories or moods tied to the memories, and a whole survey to diagnose any form of anxiety, depression, or panic disorders.
The children who answered the traditional survey and received suggestions that they may have mental health problems appeared to be more open with the robot as they gave it more negative responses when asked the same questions. More information was given to the robot than the survey picked up and overall, responses to the robot were more negative. The hypothesis is that children view the robot as “more familiar” which allows them to reveal honest feelings and experiences.
One of the parents who watched on as the study was conducted claimed he had no clue his son was going through issues until he heard his answers given to the robot. Another piece of research tied to the Cambridge study suggest that children are more likely to share private information with the robot, such as bullying and more.
“We think it’s easier to engage with the robot as a companion if the robot is child-friendly. Children may respond to parents or psychologists with what they think is expected of them, rather than what they think is true.”
Hatice Gunes, the head of Cambridge’s Robotics and Affective Intelligence Laboratory, said.