Livin' on the MDedge

The human-looking robot therapist will coach your well-being now


Do android therapists dream of electric employees?

Robots. It can be tough to remember that, when they’re not dooming humanity to apocalypse or just telling you that you’re doomed, robots have real-world uses. There are actual robots in the world, and they can do things beyond bend girders, sing about science, or run the navy.

University of Cambridge

Look, we’ll stop with the pop-culture references when pop culture runs out of robots to reference. It may take a while.

Robots are indelibly rooted in the public consciousness, and that plays into our expectations when we encounter a real-life robot. This leads us into a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, who developed a robot-led mental well-being program that a tech company utilized for 4 weeks. Why choose a robot? Well, why spring for a qualified therapist who requires a salary when you could simply get a robot to do the job for free? Get with the capitalist agenda here. Surely it won’t backfire.

The 26 people enrolled in the study received coaching from one of two robots, both programmed identically to act like mental health coaches, based on interviews with human therapists. Both acted identically and had identical expressions. The only difference between the two was their appearance. QTRobot was nearly a meter tall and looked like a human child; Misty II was much smaller and looked like a toy.

People who received coaching from Misty II were better able to connect and had a better experience than those who received coaching from QTRobot. According to those in the QTRobot group, their expectations didn’t match reality. The robots are good coaches, but they don’t act human. This wasn’t a problem for Misty II, since it doesn’t look human, but for QTRobot, the participants were expecting “to hell with our orders,” but received “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.” When you’ve been programmed to think of robots as metal humans, it can be off-putting to see them act as, well, robots.

That said, all participants found the exercises helpful and were open to receiving more robot-led therapy in the future. And while we’re sure the technology will advance to make robot therapists more empathetic and more human, hopefully scientists won’t go too far. We don’t need depressed robots.

Birthing experience is all in the mindset

Alexa, play Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46 - I. Morning Mood.


Giving birth is a common experience for many, if not most, female mammals, but wanting it to be a pleasurable one seems distinctly human. There are many methods and practices that may make giving birth an easier and enjoyable experience for the mother, but a new study suggests that the key could be in her mind.

A mother holds her newborn baby. joruba/Thinkstock

The mindset of the expectant mother during pregnancy, it seems, has some effect on how smooth or intervention-filled delivery is. If the mothers saw their experience as a natural process, they were less likely to need pain medication or a C-section, but mothers who viewed the experience as more of a “medical procedure” were more likely to require more medical supervision and intervention, according to investigators from the University of Bonn (Germany).

Now, the researchers wanted to be super clear in saying that there’s no right or wrong mindset to have. They just focused on the outcomes of those mindsets and whether they actually do have some effect on occurrences.

Apparently, yes.

“Mindsets can be understood as a kind of mental lense that guide our perception of the world around us and can influence our behavior,” Dr. Lisa Hoffmann said in a statement from the university. “The study highlights the importance of psychological factors in childbirth.”

The researchers surveyed 300 women with an online tool before and after delivery and found the effects of the natural process mindset lingered even after giving birth. They had lower rates of depression and posttraumatic stress, which may have a snowballing effect on mother-child bonding after childbirth.

Preparation for the big day, then, should be about more than gathering diapers and shopping for car seats. Women should prepare their minds as well. If it’s going to make giving birth better, why not?

Becoming a parent is going to create a psychological shift, no matter how you slice it.


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