Social cognition in human-robot interaction (S4HRI) research line focuses on examining mechanisms of social cognition (e.g., joint attention, spatial perspective taking) involved in interactions with humanoid robots (the iCub robot specifically). With objective methods of cognitive neuroscience (EEG, eye tracking, performance measures) we determine patterns of brain activity in interactions with iCub.

We are interested in conditions under which humans socially attune with the iCub, and whether this depends on attribution of intentionality to the robot. Our research shall determine – with a series of nonverbal Turing tests – robot’s behavioural characteristics (for example, timing of eye movements, reaction to salient attention-capturing environmental events) that elicit attribution of mind.
The S4HRI research line is closely related to the ERC grant “InStance: Intentional Stance for social attunement", awarded to Agnieszka Wykowska.

Results of this research line shall impact:

  • fundamental research in social cognitive neuroscience: what makes us attribute intentional agency to others,
  • robotics: guidelines on how to design (behavioural) characteristics of humanoids to make them attuned to the needs of the human brain,
  • applied domains: robot assistance for health- and elderly care and therapy.

The research line S4HRI will enable creation of assistive robots easy to accept as social interaction partners.


Research activities of “Social cognition in human-robot interaction” are located in the Center for Human Technologies as IIT-Erzelli. Specifically, the S4HRI lab dedicated to this research line is equipped with an iCub robot, 2x64-channel EEG systems (Brain Products, GmbH), 2 mobile Tobii Pro eyetracker glasses (Tobii, AB), 4 workstations for behavioural and psychophysical experiments, and a little fellow Cozmo robot (Anki, Inc.).


InStance: Intentional Stance for social attunement - ERC Starting Grant