International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 359–369 | Cite as

Adult Verbal Comprehension Performance is Better from Human Speakers than Social Robots, but only for Easy Questions

  • Adam PalanicaEmail author
  • Anirudh Thommandram
  • Yan Fossat


The present study examined whether any differences existed in verbal comprehension performance when information was communicated through either a human or a robot speaker, and whether the nonverbal communication of either a “high social” robot (i.e., frequent gestures, direct head gaze) or a “low social” robot (i.e., no gestures, indirect head gaze) influenced comprehension. This study also assessed whether question difficulty moderated comprehension performance. A sample of 46 adult participants (23 human + high social robot; 23 human + low social robot) were given verbal comprehension questions from both a human and a robot. The results showed that, as question difficulty increased, performance elicited by the robot speaker reached parity with that of the human speaker. Conversely, for easy questions, performance generated from the robot speaker was significantly inferior to that from the human speaker. The robot social level of behaviour had no measurable impact on the results. These results suggest that the traditional use of social robots for simple communications could be extended to more complex domains. Practical implications for education, healthcare, and marketing are further discussed.


Human–robot interaction Social robot Humanoid robot Social behaviour Robot learning Verbal comprehension 



Thanks to all of the participants, project members, supporters, and researchers at Klick Inc. for the successful development, implementation, and evaluation of this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Labs DepartmentKlick Health, Klick IncTorontoCanada

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