University of Twente Student Theses


Musical utterances to evoke empathy and prosocial behavior toward a hospital robot

Höfker, T. (2023) Musical utterances to evoke empathy and prosocial behavior toward a hospital robot.

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Abstract:Semantic-Free Utterances can be an effective way of communication in human-robot interaction to convey intentions and emotions to the users in simple and easy-to- understand ways. Although a lot of research is done on semantic-free utterances, musical utterances are a type of semantic-free utterances that are barely researched beyond expressing emotions. In the context of a transportation robot in a hospi- tal needing help, they seem to be promising to evoke empathy and therefore elicit prosocial behavior from people in the surrounding area of the robot. However, to date, it is not known yet whether they are successful in doing so. Therefore, our study looks at the extent musical utterances are able to communicate intentions and emotions that result in empathy and prosocial behavior toward a robot. Together with sound designers, we created musical utterances for specific scenarios in which the robot has a problem where it needs support from people. We tested these sounds in an online video study where participants watched videos of the robot in situations where it is stuck and either used no sounds, beeping sounds, or musical sounds. Our results indicate that people hearing the musical utterances as means of com- munication by the robot perceived more empathy evoking emotions. Interestingly, the musical utterances evoked higher levels of cognitive empathy compared to no sounds and beeping sounds. Against our expectations, the confidence of the par- ticipants in the interpretation of the robot’s intentions was the highest in the beeping sound condition. For all other cases, our results did not indicate significant differ- ences between the sound conditions. Therefore, it can be concluded that for the communication of emotions musical utterances seem useful, but to make the robot’s intention more legible, it is more effective to rely on simpler sounds like beeping sounds. Still, especially with regard to empathy and prosocial behavior, we cannot draw concrete conclusions and future research should consider this.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:EEMCS: Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science
Programme:Interaction Technology MSc (60030)
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