A Developmental Approach to the Study of Affective Bonds for Human-Robot Interaction
Robotics agents are meant to play an increasingly larger role in our everyday lives. To be successfully integrated in our environment, robots will need to develop and display adaptive, robust, and socially suitable behaviours. To tackle these issues, the robotics research community has invested a considerable amount of efforts in modelling robotic architectures inspired by research on living systems, from ethology to developmental psychology. Following a similar approach, this thesis presents the research results of the modelling and experimental testing of robotic architectures based on affective and attachment bonds between young infants and their primary caregiver. I follow a bottom-up approach to the modelling of such bonds, examining how they can promote the situated development of an autonomous robot. Specifically, the models used and the results from the experiments carried out in laboratory settings and with naive users demonstrate the impact such affective bonds have on the learning outcomes of an autonomous robot and on the perception and behaviour of humans. This research leads to the emphasis on the importance of the interplay between the dynamics of the regulatory behaviours performed by a robot and the responsiveness of the human partner. The coupling of such signals and behaviours in an attachment-like dyad determines the nature of the outcomes for the robot, in terms of learning or the satisfaction of other needs. The experiments carried out also demonstrate of the attachment system can help a robot adapt its own social behaviour to that of the human partners, as infants are thought to do during their development.