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Social robots with charismatic voices get better results from students

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, social robots are carving out a niche for themselves. With their potential to bolster learning and collaboration, they’re increasingly making their presence felt. But a team of Danish scientists decided to dig deeper. 

The experts ventured to find out if the sound of a social robot’s voice could significantly impact its performance while dealing with teams of humans. Does a charismatic voice make a robot a better facilitator for team creativity?

“We had a robot instruct teams of students in a creativity task. The robot either used a confident, passionate – ie charismatic – tone of voice or a normal, matter-of-fact tone of voice,” explained Dr. Kerstin Fischer of the University of Southern Denmark, a corresponding author of the study. 

The scientists found that the students generated more original and more elaborate ideas when the robot adopted a charismatic speaking style.

Can a robot be charismatic?

In previous studies, social robots acting as facilitators have demonstrated their ability to boost creativity. The success of these facilitators hinges partially on charisma, with individuals becoming more confident and engaged in response to charismatic speech.

Dr. Fischer and her team sought to replicate this effect using the voices of social robots. They employed a text-to-speech function specifically engineered to mimic characteristics associated with charismatic speaking, like a specific pitch range and a unique way of stressing words. 

They created two voices, one charismatic and one less expressive, based on a series of parameters associated with perceived speaker charisma.

To test these voices, the researchers brought in five classes of university students, all enrolled in courses that included an element of team creativity. The students were informed that they were participating in a creativity workshop, wherein they brainstormed ideas based on images and utilized those ideas to formulate a new chocolate product.

The workshop was guided by videos of a robot speaking, with the robot introducing the task, reassuring the students that there were no bad ideas, and then congratulating them for completing the task. 

The students were then asked to fill out a self-evaluation questionnaire, evaluating the robot’s performance, their own views on their teamwork, and the overall success of the session. The researchers also measured the creativity of each session by the number of original ideas produced and their elaboration.

Charisma shown to boost creativity

The results were telling. The group exposed to the charismatic voice viewed the robot more favorably, finding it more charismatic and interactive. They had a more positive perception of their teamwork and generated more original and elaborate ideas. 

Interestingly, the group that interacted with the non-charismatic voice viewed themselves as more resilient and efficient. The researchers suggested that a less charismatic leader might lead to better self-organization by the team members, despite producing fewer ideas.

“I had suspected that charismatic speech has very important effects, but our study provides clear evidence for the effect of charismatic speech on listener creativity,” said study co-author Dr. Oliver Niebuhr. The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Communication, is the first of its kind to establish a link between charismatic voices, artificial speakers, and creativity outputs.

However, the scientists pointed out that not every team responded in the same way to the different voices. The diverse experiences of the students in their respective classes might have influenced their response. 

To further understand how these external factors impacted team performance, larger studies are needed. In the realm of social robotics, it seems the sound of a voice can echo far and wide, influencing the quality and quantity of human creativity.

“The robot was present only in videos, but one could suspect that more exposure or repeated exposure to the charismatic speaking style would have even stronger effects,” said Dr. Fischer. 

“Moreover, we have only varied a few features between the two robot conditions. We don’t know how the effect size would change if other or more features were varied. Finally, since charismatic speaking patterns differ between cultures, we would expect that the same stimuli will not yield the same results in all languages and cultures.”

More about robots and education

As we journey further into the 21st century, the fusion of technology and education continues to evolve, with robots playing an increasingly significant role in student education. Here’s how:

Personalized Learning

One of the major benefits of using robots in education is their capacity for personalization. Robots can adapt learning materials to the needs of individual students, helping to cater to their unique learning styles and paces. They can provide extra support to students who struggle with certain concepts, offering additional practice or alternative methods of understanding.

Interactive Learning

Social robots offer a highly interactive way to engage students in learning. They can bring learning to life through real-time demonstrations, encouraging participation and interaction. Learning through robotics can be particularly beneficial in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), where abstract concepts can be made tangible.

Boosting Coding Skills

The importance of learning to code has skyrocketed in our digital age. Coding is an invaluable skill in many professions, and teaching it at an early age can set students up for success in their future careers. Educational robots often come with user-friendly programming interfaces that allow students to manipulate their actions, helping them learn coding in a fun and engaging way.

Social Skills and Teamwork

Robots can also help students improve their social skills and teamwork. In classrooms where students work together to program a robot or solve a challenge, they need to communicate effectively, delegate tasks, and collaborate to reach their goals.

Emotional Support

Certain robots, known as social or emotional robots, have been designed to support students emotionally. These robots can recognize and respond to human emotions, providing comfort or encouraging positive behavior. For example, they can be particularly beneficial for students on the autism spectrum by helping them understand and express emotions.


Robots can make learning fun, providing a level of novelty and interactivity that traditional teaching methods may lack. This can boost students’ motivation and engagement with their learning, leading to better retention of information.

While there’s much to be excited about, it’s also important to note that the integration of robots into education is not without challenges. Issues around cost, access, and ensuring the technology is used effectively and ethically are all ongoing considerations. 

Nonetheless, as technological advances continue, social robots are likely to become a more common and valuable tool in classrooms across the globe.


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