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Although the contribution that social robots have made to healthcare is recognized, much less attention has been given to the role that social robots can play in a specific healthcare application domain, namely psychology-based interventions. Robotic psychology, or robopsychology, is a research field not yet fully exploited in regards to the study of compatibility between people and robotic creatures on multiple levels (i.e., sensory–motor, emotional, cognitive, and social). The proper use of social robots in the psychological field would exploit their potential even more, since relationality is a fundamental aspect for any intervention aimed at affecting people’s psychological dimensions.
The technological advancements seen in recent years and the new paradigm in robotic sciences emphasizing the “human-oriented” values of engineering design led researchers to equip some of these artificial entities with a physical embodiment  and, therefore, let them interact in a more typically human fashion (e.g., proxemics, kinesics, tactile and multisensory stimulation) . Personal service robots’ growth allowed them to be robust enough to be deployed in a plethora of settings, including healthcare, where they have been particularly beneficial . Nonetheless, personal service robots had to learn to process social information and interact in a socially adequate and refined way to properly function and serve the purposes of the healthcare interventions. In other words, they evolved into social robots. Both scientific and non-scientific definitions see social robots as being capable of interacting with and working for humans . More specifically, social robots are expected to meet various criteria, although to different degrees . Social robots should: (i) avoid generating false expectations due to their shape, size, and material qualities; (ii) recognize, respond to, and employ. where possible, all modalities that humans naturally use to communicate; and (iii) be aware of human social rules and norms and behave accordingly.
Although the contribution that social robots have made to healthcare is recognized, much less attention has been given to the role that social robots can play in a specific healthcare application domain, namely psychology-based interventions . Robotic psychology, or robopsychology, is a research field not yet fully exploited in regards to the study of compatibility between people and robotic creatures on multiple levels (i.e., sensory–motor, emotional, cognitive, and social) . The proper use of social robots in the psychological field would exploit their potential even more, since relationality is a fundamental aspect for any intervention aimed at affecting people’s psychological dimensions . Indeed, the effect that artificial entities have on human beings is not limited to mere instrumental support. Individuals may also satisfy relational needs through artificial entities  and, in general, such entities appear able to influence some aspects of people’s psychic life with relative ease . Human beings are naturally inclined to attribute mental states to inanimate objects and animals through processes known as anthropomorphization, mind perception, and emotional attachment . In this case, however, social robots are not just a passive receptacle of this human trend, but they have been developed to facilitate this attribution process through the implementation of human-like features that mimic human mental state representations and actions . Thus, social robots appear particularly interesting for the purposes of psychological intervention due to their perceived similarity with human beings or other life-like creatures. In particular, researchers have used them for interventions with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to promote wellbeing (i.e., lowering stress and anxiety), topics that are of interest in this paper. ASD is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction skills, but also repetitive and restricted behavior patterns, activities, and interests .
The evidence about robot-based intervention effectiveness in psychology has not yet been systematized to account for the multiple types of social robots employed. The aim of this article was to offer a systematic review of social robot empirical findings regarding psychological intervention to (a) identify psychological pathologies/disorders/conditions that may benefit from robot-based intervention, together with (b) the specific psychological areas targeted by them, and (c) describe the types of robots most used for each domain of intervention.
The paper is organized as follows. In the Method and Procedures section, the systematic review methodology will be explained, including the search and selection strategy, together with the description of inclusion/exclusion criteria. In the Results section, the included studies will be presented in two separate paragraphs. The first one will summarize the characteristics of the studies in terms of robots and activities proposed, target samples, and psychological dimensions addressed. Meanwhile, the second section will report the outcomes obtained in all the selected works. Moreover, the Risk of Bias paragraph will give an overview on the potential biases affecting the studies. Finally, the last section will present a critical discussion.
2. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
6. Mixed Target Disorders
This entry is adapted from 10.3390/j4040048
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