Robotic Versus Human Coaches for Active Aging: An Automated Social Presence Perspective

Martina Caic, Joao Avelino, Dominik Mahr, Gaby Odekerken-Schröder, Alexandre Bernardino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This empirical study compares elderly people’s social perception of human versus robotic coaches in the context of an active and healthy aging program. In evaluating hedonic and utilitarian value perceptions of exergames (i.e., video games integrating physical activity), we consider elderly people’s judgments of the warmth and competence (i.e., social cognition) of their assigned coach (human vs. robot). The field experiments involve 58 elderly participants in the real-life context. Leveraging a mixed-method approach that combines quantitative and qualitative data, we show that (1) socially assistive robots activate feelings of (automated) social presence (2) human coaches score higher on perceived warmth and competence relative to robotic coaches, and (3) social cognition affects elderly people’s experience (i.e., emotional and cognitive reactions and behavioral intentions) with respect to exergames. These findings can inform future developments and design of social robots and systems for their smoother inclusion into elderly people’s social networks. In particular, we recommend that socially assistive robots take complementary roles (e.g., motivational coach) and assist human caregivers in improving elderly people’s physical and psychosocial well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-882
Issue number4
Early online date10 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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