Social Cognition in the Age of Human-Robot Interaction

Trends Neurosci. 2020 Jun;43(6):373-384. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2020.03.013. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


Artificial intelligence advances have led to robots endowed with increasingly sophisticated social abilities. These machines speak to our innate desire to perceive social cues in the environment, as well as the promise of robots enhancing our daily lives. However, a strong mismatch still exists between our expectations and the reality of social robots. We argue that careful delineation of the neurocognitive mechanisms supporting human-robot interaction will enable us to gather insights critical for optimising social encounters between humans and robots. To achieve this, the field must incorporate human neuroscience tools including mobile neuroimaging to explore long-term, embodied human-robot interaction in situ. New analytical neuroimaging approaches will enable characterisation of social cognition representations on a finer scale using sensitive and appropriate categorical comparisons (human, animal, tool, or object). The future of social robotics is undeniably exciting, and insights from human neuroscience research will bring us closer to interacting and collaborating with socially sophisticated robots.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; fMRI; human–robot interaction; social cognition; social robotics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neurosciences*
  • Robotics*
  • Social Cognition*