Studying trust in the context of human-robot interaction is of great importance given the increasing relevance and presence of robotic agents in various social settings, from educational to clinical. In the present study, we investigated the acquisition, loss and restoration of trust when preschool and school-age children played with either a human or a humanoid robot in-vivo. The relationship between trust and the representation of the quality of attachment relationships, Theory of Mind, and executive function skills was also investigated. Additionally, to outline children’s beliefs about the mental competencies of the robot, we further evaluated the attribution of mental states to the interactive agent. In general, no substantial differences were found in children’s trust in the play-partner as a function of agency (human or robot). Nevertheless, 3-years-olds showed a trend toward trusting the human more than the robot, as opposed to 7-years-olds, who displayed the reverse pattern. These findings align with results showing that, for children aged 3 and 7 years, the cognitive ability to switch was significantly associated with trust restoration in the human and the robot, respectively. Additionally, supporting previous findings, a dichotomy was found between attribution of mental states to the human and robot and children’s behavior: while attributing significantly lower mental states to the robot than the human, in the trusting game children behaved similarly when they related to the human and the robot. Altogether, the results of this study highlight that comparable psychological mechanisms are at play when children are to establish a novel trustful relationship with a human and robot partner. Furthermore, the findings shed light on the interplay – during development – between children’s quality of attachment relationships and the development of a Theory of Mind, which act differently on trust dynamics as a function of the children’s age as well as the interactive partner’s nature (human vs. robot).
- Developmental Robotics (DR)
- Theory of Mind (ToM)
- attribution of mental states (AMS)
- child HRI