Mental models of robots among senior citizens: An interview study of interaction expectations and design implications

Justin Walden, Eun Hwa Jung, S. Shyam Sundar, Ariel Celeste Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


An emerging topic in robot design and scholarly research is socially assistive robots (SAR) for senior citizens. Compared to robots in other sectors, SARs can augment their assistive-utilitarian functions by offering social, emotional, and cognitive support to seniors. This study draws upon interviews with 45 senior citizens to understand this group's expectations for human-robot interactions (HRI) and their anticipated needs for robots. Our grounded theory analysis suggests that senior citizens expect robots to meet three types of needs: physical, informational, and interactional. Furthermore, they seek assurances that they will have complete control over interactions with robots. Findings show that seniors' mental models about robots are shaped by their recent experiences with advanced communications technologies and mediated representations of robots in popular culture. Findings are discussed in light of practical design considerations and two theoretical perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-88
Number of pages21
JournalInteraction Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Human-Computer Interaction

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