Do Children Ascribe the Ability to Choose to Humanoid Robots?

AbstractInvestigating folk conceptions of choice and constraints have been problematic given that human actions are rarely considered constrained. In this paper, we utilize humanoid robots (more clearly influenced by determined programming) to empirically test children’s developing concepts of choice and action. Using a series of agency attribution and choice prediction tasks, we examined whether children differentiate free will abilities between robots and humans. Results indicated that 5–7-year-old children similarly attributed the ability to choose to both a robot and human child. However, for moral scenarios, participants considered the robot’s actions to be more constrained than the human. These findings demonstrate that children appear to hold a nuanced understanding of choice across agents and across context.

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