Communicating with and Relating to Social Robots: Alice Meets Leolani


Social robots represent innovative laboratories for both the humanities and social sciences to study both natural language communication and processes and effects of social bonding with an ‘artificial other’. Social relationships between humans and social robots play a crucial role both for effective communication as well as for the willingness of people to engage into collaboration. In this project, we study how social communication and relationships between robots and humans develop as two sides of the same coin: bonding results in better communication and better communication results in better socio-affective bonding. Therefore, we propose a theoretical framework integrating both perspectives that guides the development of different robot scenarios that will be empirically tested in different user groups. We combine the Theory of Affective Bonding from a social sciences perspective with the Theory of Identity, Reference, and Perspective from a linguistics perspective to optimally program social robots for communicative purposes. Likewise, a multi-method approach integrates qualitative and quantitative research designs, for short- and long-term studies both in the field and in the lab. Furthermore, the research combines and extends the results of two previously developed systems for the robots Alice and Leolani, resulting in a merged novel system Alani. Two PhDs will complementary test different scenarios, each from its own perspective, supported by the Postdoc’s work in developing a widely applicable and trustworthy test environment integrating the innovative theoretical and methodological frameworks. The result will be a landmark for future research on social and communicative robots with many societal applications.





Prof. dr. P.T.J.M. Vossen

Verbonden aan

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Letteren


01/05/2020 tot 01/10/2024