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Robot coach for Job Seekers with ASD?

By Paras Kaul and Chelsea Toledo on December 13, 2017
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Background: People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sometimes experience difficulty seeking employment due to differences in social and verbal skills. Early evidence suggests that leveraging robots in mock job interviews can help to train individuals with ASD for the actual experience.


What’s New: A recent study explored the possibility of leveraging artificial intelligence as a preparatory aid for job seekers with ASD. Fifteen participants between the ages of 18 and 25 with ASD completed a mock job application with questions about one of six jobs they chose to pursue. For five days they interviewed with either the robot or the human at the same time each day. Researchers measured salivary cortisol levels – a biomarker for stress and anxiety -  at the same time of day after each mock interview to see if there were any changes.


After their interviews, participants received questionnaires about their performance. Responses from participants who met with the robots indicated improvements in their self-confidence with somewhat reduced levels of stress and anxiety. While cortisol levels were lower among the individuals who interviewed with a robot, the hormone spiked on Day 2 of the exercise – a possible indication of a physical reaction needed for an individual with ASD to perform.


Why it’s important: This study suggests that the stress, anxiety, and self-confidence people with ASD experience in job interviews can be reduced with training from android robots that look like humans. Training in mock job interviews with robots may be useful in addressing social and communicative challenges that prevent the ASD population from getting jobs in the real-world. This possibility –  as well as the link between cortisol spikes and interview performance – merits further investigation via larger studies.

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