Based on a study of senior citizens, the researchers said that mental models formed by seniors - specifically, negative and positive notions about robots - shape their comfort level with the machines.

"When interfaces are designed to be almost human-like in their autonomy, seniors may react to them with fear, scepticism and other negative emotions," said S Shyam Sundar, professor at Pennsylvania State University.

"But, with those considerations in mind, there are actually several areas where older people would accept robot help," Sundar added.

The participants in the study indicated they saw robots as useful in three aspects of their lives – physical, informational and interactional. They felt most comfortable with robots as helpers and butlers, according to Sundar.

Older adults also seemed more likely to accept robots that provide them information and entertainment, according to the researchers. However, they may be less likely to use robots that are designed to be more autonomous.

The study was published in the journal Interaction Studies.

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