Children’s creativity—the ability to come up with novel, surprising, and valuable ideas—has been known to contribute to their learning outcomes and personal growth. Standardized ways to measure creativity and divergent thinking reported that as children enter elementary school, their creativity slumps and thinking becomes more convergent, especially around the 4th grade. One cause for this is school curricula become more structured and lose the aspect of creative play. This is especially concerning for kids growing up in the era of artificial intelligence, where mechanical and repetitive jobs that require structured thinking move to machines. To be successful in this world of intelligent agents, we must empower children not only to understand how these intelligent agents work, but also to be able to think creatively about generating new artifacts in consort with such agents, which requires imaginative, novel thought.
In this work, we explore whether a social robot’s interaction with children can be an effective way to help children think more creatively. We suggest two ways in which robots used as pedagogical tools can help children think more creatively: 1) through artificial creativity demonstration, such as showing the use of novel ideas, and 2) through offering creativity scaffolding, such as asking reflective questions, validating novel ideas, and engaging in creative conflict.
We designed four collaborative game-based activities that involve child-robot interaction and afford different forms of creative expression: 1) Droodle Game, which affords verbal creativity, 2) Magic Draw, which affords figural creativity, 3) WeDo Construction with Jibo, which affords construction creativity, and 4) Escape Adventure, which affords divergent thinking and creative problem solving. We designed the behavior of the robot such that it either scaffolds the child for creative thinking, or the robot gives the appearance of creative thinking by artificially emulating human creativity. We evaluated the role of the social robot in influencing children’s creativity by running comparative studies between children playing these creativity games while interacting with the robot with creativity-inducing behaviors (creative condition), and without creativity-inducing behaviors (non-creative condition). Children who interacted with the creative robot exhibited higher levels of creativity than children who interacted with a non-creative control robot. We conclude that children can model a social robotic peer’s creative expression via social emulation. When scaffolded for creativity, children exhibited higher levels of creativity. This enabled us to develop a robot scaffolding paradigm which fosters creativity in young children.
This project contributes design guidelines for child-robot interactions which promote creative thinking, and provides evidence that these creativity inducing behaviors exhibited by social robots can foster creativity in young children.