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Description: In this online study, we investigated how well people could recognize emotions displayed by video recordings of a Cozmo robot, and the extent to which emotion recognition is shaped by individuals’ empathic traits. We also explored whether participants who report more empathic tendencies experienced more emotional contagion when watching Cozmo’s emotional displays, since emotion contagion is a core aspect of empathy. We tested participants’ perceptions of Cozmo’s happiness, anger, sadness, surprise, and neutral displays. Across 103 participants, we report high recognition rates for most emotion categories except neutral animations. Furthermore, the mixed effects modelling revealed that an empathy subtype (the empathic concern subscale from the Interpersonal Reactivity Index) significantly impacted emotional contagion. Contrary to predictions, participants with high empathic concern subscale scores were less likely to find the robot’s videos emotionally contagious. The study validates the utility of Cozmo robots to display recognizable emotional cues, and further suggests that empathic traits could shape our affective interactions with robots, though perhaps in a counterintuitive way.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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