5-7 Year Old Children's Conceptions of Behaving Artifacts and the Influence of Constructing Their Behavior on the Development of Theory of Mind (ToM) and Theory of Artificial Mind (ToAM)

Karen Spektor-Precel, David Mioduser
Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning  •  Volume 11  •  2015  •  pp. 329-345
Nowadays, we are surrounded by artifacts that are capable of adaptive behavior, such as electric pots, boiler timers, automatic doors, and robots. The literature concerning human beings’ conceptions of “traditional” artifacts is vast, however, little is known about our conceptions of behaving artifacts, nor of the influence of the interaction with such artifacts on cognitive development, especially among children. Since these artifacts are provided with an artificial “mind,” it is of interest to assess whether and how children develop a Theory of Artificial Mind (ToAM) which is distinct from their Theory of Mind (ToM). The study examined a new theoretical scheme named ToAM (Theory of Artificial Mind) by means of qualitative and quantitative methodology among twenty four 5-7 year old children from central Israel. It also examined the effects of interacting with behaving artifacts (constructing versus observing the robot’s behavior) using the “RoboGan” interface on children’s development of ToAM and their ToM and looked for conceptions that evolve among children while interacting with behaving artifacts which are indicative of the acquisition of ToAM. In the quantitative analysis it was found that the interaction with behaving artifacts, whether as observers or constructors and for both age groups, brought into awareness children’s ToM as well as influenced their ability to understand that robots can behave independently and based on external and environmental conditions. In the qualitative analysis it was found that participating in the intervention influenced the children’s ToAM for both constructors and for the younger observer. Engaging in building the robot’s behavior influenced the children’s ability to explain several of the robots’ behaviors, their understanding of the robot’s script-based behavior and rule-based behavior and the children’s metacognitive development. The theoretical and practical importance of the study is discussed.
Theory of Mind (ToM), Theory of Artificial Mind (ToAM), Cognitive Development, Behaving artifacts, Robots
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