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Robotics Idle Science

Study Shows Babies Think Friendly Robots Are Sentient 159

Posted by samzenpus
from the stupid-babies dept.
seanonymous writes "A study from University of Washington claims that babies think robots are human, so long as the robots are friendly. No word on what evil robots are thought to be. From the article: 'At 18 months old, babies have begun to make conscious delineations between sentient beings and inanimate objects. But as robots get more and more advanced, those decisions may become harder to make. What causes a baby to decide a robot is more than bits of metal? As it turns out, it takes more than humanoid looks — babies rely on social interaction to make that call.'"


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Study Shows Babies Think Friendly Robots Are Sentient

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  • by nbauman (624611) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:21PM (#33910062) Homepage Journal

    According to psychologist Paul Bloom [] , babies think lots of things are sentient.

    If they show a movie to babies with geometrical figures, they assume that the geometrical figures are helping or hindering each other because geometrical figures want to.

    He said this makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, because it improves survival if you assume everything around you that moves might be out to get you.

    He also says that this is an evolutionary explanation of religion, by finding sentient beings behind all of nature. If you see a storm, there must be a sentient being behind it.

  • Exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snspdaarf (1314399) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:25PM (#33910110)
    Their beliefs are based on limited experience. When I was little, I watched musicians doing a live radio show. For a while after that, I thought that all music on the radio was performed live. It's the same kind of thing.
  • by blair1q (305137) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:32PM (#33910218) Journal

    Adults think their pets are human, and humans of different colors are animals. People are generally not a good source of judgment.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:57PM (#33911272) Homepage Journal

    Thanks for pointing that out. I don't watch much TV right now, but one thing I miss is some pretty good science TV programs.

    Interesting about dogs. Oddly enough, chimpanzees won't look (as I recall). You can put a reward under a can, point to it, and they won't realize you're giving them a hint.

    There's a reason why humans and dogs get along so well together. Our behavior has co-evolved for 10,000 years.

  • If you point at something, a dog will look.

    Not a cat. If you point at something for a cat, the cat will just look at your hand. At best. If they don't just ignore you.

    What does that say about cats, then?

    (On the other hand, I often use my cat to help me locate a strange sound, or identify whether a strange sound is a threat. Hear sound, check cat's reaction. If the cat shows interest, then it's a novel stimulus and may warrant my attention as well. If the cat runs away, it's probably a visitor or some other cat-threat. If the cat runs to the door, it's probably Mommy.)

  • Re:Correction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:46PM (#33911880)

    What's truly incredible about all this research is that for decades now we've known that infants can form stories about what a person is doing by observing them - even though the infant is incapable of performing the same activities, has never participated in those activities, etc.

    Yeah, but how accurate are those stories? After all, we know that the Cargo Cults formed stories about what the White Man was doing on their islands, and even attempted to imitate what they saw. Unfortunately their stories reflected their own culture, experiences, and beliefs, and only superficially resembled what they were observing. If what we're seeing in infants is the same, I don't see anything particularly incredible about it.

  • by jpc1957 (1820122) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:59PM (#33913936)
    my 3 year old thought a 5 dollar motorized bug was real, same reaction as to a real bug. Took her months before she could tell the difference. I don't think the study say's anything about 'sentience', perception/recognition develops over time naturally, ability to identify/distinguish will of course vary based on age/ability/culture....

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