In human-human conversation, we elicit, share and use information as a way of defining and building relationships – how information is revealed, and by whom, matters. A similar goal of using conversation as a relationship-building mechanism in human-robot interaction might or might not require the same degree of nuance. We explore what happens in the increasingly likely situation that a robot has sensed information about a child of which the child is unaware, then discloses that information in conversation in an effort to personalize the child’s experience. In a pilot study, 28 children conversed with a social robot that either told a story with characters already introduced into the conversation by the child (control) or characters hidden by the child in a treasure chest that the child was holding (experimental). Cumulative evidence showed that all participants in the experimental condition noticed the robot’s violation of expectations, but younger children (4 to 6 years) exhibited more contained emotional reactions than older children (7 to 10 years), and girls expressed more negative affect than boys. Despite the immediate response, post-conversation measures suggest that the single event did not have an impact on children’s ratings of robot likeability or their willingness to interact with the robot again.
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