Does agency matter? Neural processing of robotic movements in 4- and 8-year olds
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Number of pages
SourceNeuropsychologia, 157, (2021), article 107853
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI CW
SubjectCommunication and Media
Despite the increase in interactions between children and robots, our understanding of children's neural processing of robotic movements is limited. The current study theorized that motor resonance hinges on the agency of an actor: its ability to perform actions volitionally. As one of the first studies with a cross-sectional sample of preschoolers and older children and with a specific focus on robotic action (rather than abstract non-human action), the current study investigated whether the perceived agency of a robot moderated children's motor resonance for robotic movements, and whether this changed with age. Motor resonance was measured using electroencephalography (EEG) by assessing mu power while 4 and 8-year-olds observed actions performed by agentic versus non-agentic robots and humans. Results show that older children resonated more strongly with non-agentic than agentic robotic or human movement, while no such differences were found for preschoolers. This outcome is discussed in terms of a predictive coding account of motor resonance. Importantly, these findings contribute to the existing set of studies on this topic by showing that, while keeping all kinematic information constant, there is a clear developmental difference in how children process robotic movement depending on the level of agency of a robot.
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