Enhancing Emotional Support: The Effect of a Robotic Object on Human–Human Support Quality

Hadas Erel, Denis Trayman, Chen Levy, Adi Manor, Mario Mikulincer, Oren Zuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Emotional support in the context of psychological caregiving is an important aspect of human–human interaction that can significantly increase well-being. In this study, we tested if non-verbal gestures of a non-humanoid robot can increase emotional support in a human–human interaction. Sixty-four participants were invited in pairs to take turns in disclosing a personal problem and responding in a supportive manner. In the experimental condition, the robotic object performed emphatic gestures, modeled according to the behavior of a trained therapist. In the baseline condition, the robotic object performed up-and-down gestures, without directing attention towards the participants. Findings show that the robot’s empathy-related gestures significantly improved the emotional support quality provided by one participant to another, as indicated by both subjective and objective measures. The non-humanoid robot was perceived as peripheral to the natural human–human interaction and influenced participants’ behavior without interfering. We conclude that non-humanoid gestures of a robotic object can enhance the quality of emotional support in intimate human–human interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-276
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Social Robotics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Caregiving
  • Emotional support
  • Empathy
  • Human–human robot interaction
  • Non-humanoid robots
  • Social support


Dive into the research topics of 'Enhancing Emotional Support: The Effect of a Robotic Object on Human–Human Support Quality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this