Public defence: Conceptualizing empathic child-robot communication

Master Ekaterina Pashevich at the Department of Media and Communication will defend her dissertation Empathic child-robot communication. Exploring the potential influence of communication with social robots on the development of empathy in children for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD).

Doctoral candidate Ekaterina Pashevich, wall with text "det humanistiske fakultet"

Social robots designed for communication with children increasingly attract the interest of scholars in different disciplines as they are entering the market. Robots like Pepper, NAO and Kaspar have been used in museums, shopping malls, and as teaching and therapy assistants, while social toy robots like Furby and Cozmo have become more interactive and personalized. Concerns have been raised by psychology and philosophy scholars that such robots might challenge the norms of human interpersonal communication and impact the acquisition of social skills in future generations.

In her doctoral dissertation, Ekaterina Pashevich maps the types of potential influence that communication with social robots may have on the development of empathy in children, depending on the robot’s design, the duration of the interaction and its context. Finding a lack of certain empirical knowledge in the literature on the subject due to the technical and ethical challenges, she suggests a new framework of Empathic child-robot communication (ECRC), which builds on empirical and theoretical knowledge from developmental psychology and social robotics. This framework can be of help while designing social robots for communication with children and can assist scholars in analysing the suitability of specific social robots for long-term social engagement with children. By reflecting on the implications of empathic child-robot communication and its ethical concerns, the dissertation contributes to the new field of Human-machine communication.

Ekaterina Pashevich successfully defended her dissertation on 17 June 2022.

Trial lecture

Designated topic: "AI, ethics and empathy: Exploring the ethical, cultural and philosophical dimensions of human-robot interaction research"

Evaluation committee

Professor Steve Jones, University of Illinois (first opponent)

Associate Professor Andrea Guzman, Northern Illinois University (second opponent)

Professor Cristina Archetti, University of Oslo (committee administrator)

Chair of the defence

Professor Terje Rasmussen


Professor Emeritus Charles Ess, University of Oslo

Professor Elisabeth Staksrud, University of Oslo

Published June 1, 2022 3:02 PM - Last modified July 19, 2022 11:25 AM