Mark Thompson

Study: Robots to make counsellors obsolete

Over in the UK, one study discovered that a robot aced a common counselling technique. In fact, participants found it much easier speaking to someone who they feel won’t judge them.

 

 

Yesterday, we discovered that artificial beings will save our time by setting our appointments. Today, it seems that they might be saving us from ourselves.

According to the University of Plymouth, the next profession to feel the grip of robots is counselling. Their display that a robot can deliver a ‘helpful’ and ‘enjoyable’ motivational interview (MI), a commonly used counselling technique designed to support behaviour change.

MI is a technique that involves encouraging someone to talk about their need for change, and their reasons for wanting change, something which the robot named Fraser (kidding) excelled at.

The lead of the study, Professor Jackie Andrade believes that perception is the key. As we mostly see robots as nonjudgmental (except for those who want to kill us), they may possess advantages over more humanoid figures, especially when delivering support for behavioural change. “We were pleasantly surprised by how easily the participants adapted to the unusual experience of discussing their lifestyle with a robot,” she said.

According to the study, the participants also perceived the interaction as enjoyable, and helpful. The primary takeaway that participants had, was that the robot didn’t interrupt them, as counsellors are sure to do. Especially mine. There was auxiliary praise also for the robot’s lack of judgement, as there was strong praise for the non-judgemental nature of the robot, suggesting that may be extremely useful in enabling discussion about buried, difficult issues.

I mean, I’d tell a robot my problems. They probably won’t share it with their psychologist friends over the dinner table as banter.

Well, I’d certainly hope not.

 

 

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