Human-Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


How Robots Can Help
Communication Strategies that
Improve Social Outcomes

Cristen Torrey

May 2009

Ph.D. Thesis


Keywords: Human-computer interaction, human-robot interaction, social robots, robot helpers, assistive robotics, robot assistants, human-robot communication, conversational interfaces, adaptive dialogue, help giving communication, help messages, help giving, social responses to technology, computers as social actors theory, perspective taking, politeness theory, help seeking, reactions to aid, informal learning, just-in-time learning, social and emotional outcomes, expectancy violation theory, linguistic mitigation, face threat, hedges, discourse markers, baking instruction

Offering help is a socially precarious venture. A robot that mimics human help-giving communication might end up supporting or might end up offending the help recipient. This thesis begins by observing the varied linguistic strategies human help givers use and their subsequent effects on help recipients. With this understanding, this thesis experimentally observes reactions to robot helpers in comparison to human helpers, looking closely at the in uence of help messages on impressions. This experiment provides evidence that imperative statements from a robot are perceived to be controlling, in much the same way as humans using imperative statements. But when particular politeness strategies are used, robots are judged to be even less controlling than people. This thesis improves our understanding of human help-giving communication, offers guidance in the design of sensitive robot helpers, and argues for the continued investigation of advantageous di erences between social responses to technology and social responses to people.

117 pages

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