After having been introduced to the objective of LIREC’s research focused on robots and social relationships with humans, we will now look at the social motives and needs of humans in relation to companions.
Interaction is a very simple process that happens without even thinking or planning for it in advance. Humans simply interact.
This effortless activity involves a number of mental capabilities and psychological functions, all of which affect the interaction process. Social relationships between humans and interactive companions, as we have seen before, involve interaction. Robots and companions have to realize these functions and capabilities in many ways in order to interact with humans socially. In the following we will look at the general psychological functions that potentially play a role in human-robot interaction.
Six main functions are addressed below:
1.Perception: the process of following sensory channels and understanding sensory information.
2. Memory: the process of storing perceived information and organizing it semantically in special areas of the brain. This information can be retrieved later for use. Irrelevant and incoherent information can be loosely connected and sometimes forgotten.
3.Emotion: the spontaneous mental state of a human that cannot be affected by conscious intention.
4.Motivation: the drive that leads us to undertake actions for the purpose of achieving goals.
5.Communication: the process of exchanging information with others via verbal and non-verbal cues.
6.Learning: the process of acquiring new information, knowledge and experience.
Psychological Functions in Companions
In order to formalize these functions in computer simulation and virtual agents, the PSI theory aims to model a link between body and mind in virtual agents. In this model, actions are regulated by defining a limited number of basic, instinctive needs that control, guide and motivate the actions of the organism and are responsible for preserving its life. These needs include:
1.Self-preservation: from the moment of its existence as an autonomous entity, the organism’s primal needs will include food, water, the avoidance of pain, and the other requirements that ensure the preservation of its life.
2.Survival of the species: expressing itself through sexuality and the urge to reproduce and perpetuate the species.
3.Need for affiliation: to live in a society with others and experience mutual relationships.
4.Need for certainty: to be able to predict what will happen in a certain situation, and its end results.
5.Need for competence: being able to master problems and excel in them is essential, especially to satisfy one’s need.
All of these needs emerge according to the activities of the organism, and possess a value and a strength that is likely to change over time. Of course certain factors affect the success of satisfying a certain need. For example, if we know that buying food from the supermarket at certain times of day will enable us to have food to eat, we possess the knowledge necessary in order for us to satisfy our hunger. This kind of information helps us in regulating our actions to satisfy our various needs.
Emotions on the other hand don’t have a direct impact on the actions required to satisfy needs. But sometimes they affect the way we select and prioritize which actions to perform and which needs to satisfy, such as when mothers choose to feed their children before themselves. In this case the mother’s strong emotions towards her children makes her prioritize the action needed to feed them and perform it before the action needed to feed herself.
With respect to companions, the need for affiliation is a good starting point for the study of social relationships between companions and humans. A companion’s ability to build long-term relationships is positively affected by the fact that the companion can satisfy the user’s need for affiliation. The companion’s ability might be manifested in many kinds of actions such as greeting, smiling, hugging, shared experience, or the exchange of personal information. This would be helpful for people who feel lonely, as they tend to be open to building up social relationships with companions.
Needs and Motives
The concept of motives in relation to needs sees behaviors as straightforwardly functional; actions are directed by motives to satisfy needs.
This point of view addresses five core unifying motives.
1.Belonging Motive: belonging to a group or a society, this motive satisfies the need to have strong and stable relationships. It stimulates the other social motives, such as living and blending into a society in which mutually supportive relationships help individual members to survive physically and psychologically.
2.Understanding Motive: concerns the need to have shared meanings and predictions with others. It motivates us to make sense of what is going around us in order to minimize uncertainties.
3.Controlling Motive: a cognitive motive that comes after understanding. This motive enables people to feel effective in dealing with others and themselves.
4.Self-enhancing Motive: this motive centers on the need to view oneself as worthy and able to improve by developing one’s skills and receiving positive feedback from others.
5.Trusting Motive: involves confidence and having faith in others. According to Yamagaishi and Yamagaishi, trust is a form of social intelligence that facilitates attachment in close relationships.
A review of these core motives suggests that a companion would have to address these motives in order to be able to build social relationships.
An interesting recent study “eRoy” focused on investigating subjects’ preferences about companions. Subjects expected robots to have several motives, and demonstrated a preference for reactive robots over active ones. This is probably because subjects felt the need to have control over the interaction and lacked trust in their artificial companions. Accordingly, for a companion to achieve more acceptable and sociable behavior, it could be designed to focus on the following aspects:
Personalization: providing information of personal interest.
The understanding motive is related to attraction in facilitating a voluntary relationship. Individuals feel attracted to those they feel can understand them.
Contingent with social behavior of the user. Like showing signs of affection, happiness, sadness and understanding in general.
Aiming at increasing the user’s feeling of competence by offering attractive designs and novel technology. This way people will like the flattering robot just as they like flattering humans.
Finally, aiming to gain the user’s trust and making him feel safe and comfortable. The companion’s ability to follow rules and adapt to users’ preferences will assist towards this end.
Adapting the companion’s behavior with these considerations and needs in mind would establish a solid base for social relationships with humans.
The next post in this series discusses considerations of social space in the human-companion relationship. In the next few posts we will explore the role of distance and physical space in human social relationships, and then examine how it might apply to interactive companions.