The Psychological Implications of Companion Robots: A Theoretical Framework and an Experimental Setup

International Journal of Social Robotics (Online):1-14 (2022)
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In this paper we present a theoretical framework to understand the underlying psychological mechanism involved in human-Companion Robot interactions. At first, we take the case of Sexual Robotics, where the psychological dynamics are more evident, to thereafter extend the discussion to Companion Robotics in general. First, we discuss the differences between a sex-toy and a Sexual Robots, concluding that the latter may establish a collusive and confirmative dynamics with the user. We claim that the collusiveness leads to two main consequences, such as the fixation on a specific and atypical type of sexual interaction, called paraphilic, and to the infantilization of the user, which we explain through the theoretical framework of “object-relation theory”. We argue that these dynamics may degrade to an infantile stage the relational abilities of users, extending this argument to Companion Robots in general. Then, we enquire if and how the relational dynamics enacted in HRI may shift to human relations: we discuss the analogy with virtual reality concluding that, under certain condition, a symbolic shift might happen. In the last part of this work, we propose an experimental setup to verify if a collusive and confirmative interaction with a Companion Robot can, over time, impact on the user’s ability to manage relational frustration.

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Piercosma Bisconti
Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari e di Perfezionamento Sant'Anna


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