Let me show you how I feel: How simple emotional gesturing affects child engagement during vaccinations
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Assistive robots are being increasingly applied in the health care domain to socially support humans in medical procedures. A special field is laying focus on the interaction between children and robots, because their abilities and expectations, like strong human capacities, differ and socially engaging interactions are challenging. Therefore, in this project, it was examined if a child’s engagement can be increased by adding emotional gestures, a general human skill and simple act of conveying emotional information, to a robot interaction. In two experiments, 249 children either interacted with a robot executing emotional gestures (i) or not (ii) on group vaccination days in the Netherlands. Engagement was measured with an adjusted quantitative coding approach for video analysis measuring the current engagement during the interaction. Further, participants reported engagement, anxiety, fear and trust via a questionnaire. Results show a higher engagement for the interaction under emotional gestures compared to no executed gestures. In addition, the interaction reduced state anxiety independent from one’s level of engagement. It is concluded that emotional gestures are a powerful distraction technique for a non-spoken interaction and support an enhanced human-like interaction. This thesis contributes important insights to the field, given that there is a lack of research comparing engagement quantitatively by observation in a real-life settings and by providing an effective strategy for increasing engagement and lowering state anxiety.