Home Medizin Ist es für Menschen mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störung einfacher, mit Robotern zu interagieren als mit Menschen?

Ist es für Menschen mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störung einfacher, mit Robotern zu interagieren als mit Menschen?

von NFI Redaktion

In a recent review published in Behavioral Research, researchers summarized the current findings on whether individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) find it easier to interact with robot partners than human partners.

They concluded that interacting with robots may be easier due to their ability to be motivating and have more predictable behavior than humans.


Studie: Menschen mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störung könnten leichter mit einem Roboter interagieren als mit einem Menschen: Gründe und Grenzen.  Bildquelle: Irina Wilhauk/Shutterstock.com

Studie: Menschen mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störung könnten leichter mit einem Roboter interagieren als mit einem Menschen: Gründe und Grenzen. Bildquelle: Irina Wilhauk/Shutterstock.com

Background

Individuals with ASD may have difficulty in interacting and communicating with others, and often find repetitive or restricted patterns of behavior to be calming. These challenges impact their daily lives and make social interactions stressful.

Socially assistive robots programmed to facilitate social engagement can help individuals with ASD improve their social and cognitive skills, making it easier for them to initiate social contact.

Results of some studies suggest that individuals with ASD may prefer to interact with robots over humans.

This review summarized the benefits individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder gain from interacting with robots, their possible preference for robots over humans, the reasons for this preference, and the challenges they face when interacting with robots.

Improvements in Social Interaction, Communication, and Specific Behaviors

Studies have shown that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder exhibit more social behavior, such as joint attention, eye contact, active engagement, cooperative play skills, verbal communication, imitation, and touch, when interacting with robots compared to humans.

Following interventions with robot tools, children showed improved social interaction skills with both human partners and robots.

Other interventions aimed at facilitating the development of appropriate and relevant behaviors or reducing fears and maladaptive behavior. These appropriate behaviors included learning turn-taking, making nonverbal gestures, recognizing emotions, and regulating bodily contact and touch.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder seemed more interested in robots, but were equally likely to learn turn-taking or gestures from a robot as from a human.

Autistic children who received robot-based interventions were better at recognizing happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger, as well as more complex emotions such as shame.

Robot interventions also reduced fears and repetitive behaviors, but studies comparing their effectiveness with that of humans yielded conflicting results.

Preference for Interacting with Robots over Humans

Studies suggest that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more engaged in tasks when interacting with a robot than when interacting with a human.

Unlike typically developing individuals, individuals with ASD do not prefer humans over artificial objects. Additionally, individuals with ASD seem more likely to follow robot movements than those of humans.

One study found that autistic adolescents were more likely to confide embarrassing experiences to a robot than to a human.

Autistic adults responded similarly to human and synthetic voices, with a strong preference for human voices, in contrast to typically developing individuals.

A study of individuals with ASD aged 17-25 found that they showed a greater willingness to receive interview training from a robot than from a human. Their willingness also correlated negatively with how human-like they described the robot.

Robots May be Better Motivators than Humans – or Easier to Predict and Understand

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be less likely to orient themselves to social information, as they do not pay as much attention to social information, engage less intensively in social learning, and look at people less often.

Individuals with ASD are less motivated by social rewards and use greeting and farewell gestures less frequently than typically developing individuals.

One hypothesis for why autistic individuals show greater improvements in interacting with robots is that robots may be more motivating than humans.

Another hypothesis suggests that, as robots can be considered simplified social agents, they are less complex to interact with than humans and therefore seem less intimidating. For individuals with ASD, they may represent a middle level of difficulty, preparing them to interact more easily with other people. Their behavior may also be easier to predict.

Conclusion

Overall, there is promising evidence for the benefit of robot-assisted interventions for individuals with ASD.

The authors noted high inter-individual variability in the effectiveness of using robots, including differences between individuals of different genders, ages, cultures, and with varying cognitive abilities, language skills, and sensory preferences. This suggests that the results are not generalizable and further research is needed.

The studies included in the review used a variety of interventions and robot tools; many did not include a human control group in the group that received a robot intervention.

Future studies should also investigate how long the benefits of robots persist after the intervention, although there is evidence that the effects could be long-lasting. The use of standardized measurement instruments and sample selection can lead to more meaningful conclusions.

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