Robots to Make You Happy: Investigating the Effectiveness and Acceptance of Robots for Psychological Support

Jorge Gallego Pérez

    Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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    The elderly people population is growing in industrialized countries, leading to a shortage of care personnel, higher risk of unattended needs of elderly people and greater economic costs. Technological solutions have been developed to mitigate this problem, such as assistive technology. A specific example is the use of socially assistive robots that have been employed to assist elderly people. Some of their difficulties are of a psychological and/or social type (e.g. loneliness and depression) and represent the main issues for which socially assistive robots have been developed. There is a lack of studies where socially assistive robots have stayed in the homes of elderly people for a prolonged period. Hence, in this dissertation we include the studies that we carried out to assist independent living elderly people psychologically, through the use of socially assistive robots in their own homes. The robots we used implemented exercises from positive psychology, aiming to benefit users by decreasing their feelings of loneliness and fostering their levels of mindfulness, contentment, compassion towards themselves and other people, etc., depending on the specific study. The first study in which we used a robot incorporating an exercise from positive psychology was lab-based, but it gave us clues regarding the effectiveness of a positive psychology robot-mediated program. The next three studies share the similarities of being long-term studies carried out in the homes of independent living elderly participants. Throughout these three studies we have investigated mainly two things. First, whether the robot-mediated programs were effective at providing psychological assistance. We found positive indications of this for the three long-term studies. Namely, in the first long-term study the robot assisted the user in an exercise on mindfulness meditation, and we found indications that the participant improved at performing the exercise. In the second long-term study, the robot enacted the three-good-things exercise from positive psychology and offered more interactivity, whereby we found signs that the participant felt less lonely and more content in general. Finally, in the last long-term study the robot guided the participants in an exercise of loving-kindness meditation and we found that they acquired more mindfulness and became more compassionate toward themselves and other people.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Twente
    • Evers, Vanessa, Supervisor
    Thesis sponsors
    Award date20 Oct 2016
    Place of PublicationEnschede
    Print ISBNs978-90-365-4225-8
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2016


    • HMI-IA: Intelligent Agents
    • EU project ACCOMPANY


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