A new study has found that young children are significantly more likely to be influenced by robots than adults.
The study, carried out by the University of Plymouth, found that while adults will happily question the views of a robot, children will actually agree with their mechanical peers even if the information being given is wrong.
The test required both the adults and the children to look at a screen with four lines on it and then say which ones are the same length.
On their own the children scored 87% in the test, yet when the robots joined in that score dropped down to a measly 75% and of those wrong answers 74% matched those of the robot.
What does this all mean? Well quite simply it’s good and bad news.
“It shows children can perhaps have more of an affinity with robots than adults, which does pose the question: what if robots were to suggest, for example, what products to buy or what to think?” Explains Tony Belpaeme, Professor of robotics at the University of Plymouth.
If the thought of a robot convincing your child to buy something sounds worrying, then the researchers do point out that there are some positives that go hand-in-hand with this news.
For instance the researchers at Plymouth have also been working to explore the positive impacts that robots could have in both health and education settings.
During a four-year study they found that social robots in particular could help children with diabetes accept the nature of their condition. They’re also working on a new type of robot that could help pre-school children with the learning of a second language.
While much of this is still referring to something that hasn’t happened yet, robots are already carrying out a surprising number of jobs for us around the world.
“A future in which autonomous social robots are used as aids for education professionals or child therapists is not distant,” explain the researchers.
Ultimately though the researchers believe that like any new technology the key will be in regulating it and making sure that its power isn’t abused. Yes, robots have the ability to influence children, but as long as they’re used for social good e.g. learning and healthcare, they have the potential to do a lot more good than harm.