It Does Not Matter Who You Are: Fairness in Pre-schoolers Interacting with Human and Robotic Partners


The relationship between humans and robots is increasingly becoming focus of interest for many fields of research. The studies investigating the dynamics underpinning the human–robot interaction have, up to date, mainly analysed adults’ behaviour when interacting with artificial agents. In this study, we present results associated with the human–robot interaction involving children aged 5 to 6 years playing the Ultimatum Game (UG) with either another child or a humanoid robot. Assessment of children’s attribution of mental and physical properties to the interactive agents showed that children recognized the robot as a distinct entity compared to the human. Nevertheless, consistently with previous studies on adults, the results on the UG revealed very similar behavioural responses and reasoning when the children played with the other child and with the robot. Finally, by analysing children’s justifications for their behaviour at the UG, we found that children tended to consider “fair” only the divisions that were exactly equal (5–5 divisions), and to justify them either in quantitative terms (outcome) or in terms of equity. These results are discussed in terms of theory of mind, as well as in light of developmental theories underpinning children’s behaviour at the Ultimatum Game.

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Di Dio, C., Manzi, F., Itakura, S. et al. It Does Not Matter Who You Are: Fairness in Pre-schoolers Interacting with Human and Robotic Partners. Int J of Soc Robotics 12, 1045–1059 (2020).

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  • Human–robot interaction
  • Children
  • Robot
  • Humanoid
  • Ultimatum Game
  • Theory of mind