Rebecca Stower

The Role of Trust in Children's Learning from Social Robots


My name is Rebecca and I am from Brisbane, Australia. My background is in psychology, with a specific interest in developmental and social psychology. In 2016, I completed my Bachelor of Psychological Science (Hons I) from the University of Queensland, Australia. After graduating, I worked in a start-up company as a researcher designing population-wide interventions for behaviour change. Being part of the start-up community in Brisbane gave me the opportunity to interact with research and development in other more technology-oriented fields, including robotics and AI. As my exposure to these topics grew, I became more and more curious into how psychology could potentially relate to this area and its cross-disciplinary applications.

I am now currently a doctoral student in psychology under the supervision of Professor Arvid Kappas at Jacobs University Bremen as part of the ANIMATAS project. My research interests mostly centre on the ‘human’ side of human-robot-interaction in terms of the social processes that occur when people interact with social robots. In particular, I am interested in the operationalisation of social and non-social robot behaviours to understand how robot embodiment affects user’s trust and learning from social robots.

Main host institution

Jacobs University (JacobsUni)


Arvid Kappas, Jacobs University (JacobsUni), in association with Catherine Pelachaud (SU)

Second institution

Sorbonne Univeristé (SU)


Understanding how social robots interact with children’s learning is a topic that is currently attracting considerable interest. Yet, there is currently only loose agreement on the type of behaviours that define a social robot, and recent research suggests that the implementation of social behaviours in educational scenarios may not always be beneficial for children’s learning outcomes. There are similarly conflicting findings on the benefits of social behaviours in promoting trust in robots. This interplay between robots’ social behaviours, trust, and learning is therefore yet to be fully investigated. Consequently, the goal of this dissertation project is twofold; firstly, to establish a consistent definition and operationalisation of social behaviours in robots, and secondly to determine the effects of these social behaviours on children’s learning and evaluations of trust. To this end, four studies are proposed. The first is a systematic review evaluating the effects of social robots in education, which will then be used to inform the development of multimodal social behaviours to be displayed in NAO robots. The second study will be broken down into two parts; the first assessing trust as a two-dimensional construct (social versus competency trust), and the second investigating the role of trust as a mediator between social robot’s behaviour and children’s learning outcomes. The third study will manipulate how different trust breakdowns (social norm violations and competency breakdowns) committed by social robots interact with trust, and if this affects children’s learning outcomes. The fourth study will explore the role of social behaviours and perceived robot agency in a longitudinal study on trust development, trust breakdown, and subsequent trust recovery in children’s learning from social robots. Through the lens of trust formation, breakdown, and recovery, these studies aim to help understand the role of social behaviours in children’s learning from social robots.

Expected results

Completed PhD dissertation, software and algorithms for modelling trust and learning, peer-reviewed publications, international journal and conference publications