Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Andrea Scarantino

Second Advisor

Dan Weiskopf

Third Advisor

Neil Van Leeuwen


I argue against the commonly held intuition that robots and virtual agents will never have emotions by contending robots can have emotions in a sense that is functionally similar to humans, even if the robots' emotions are not exactly equivalent to those of humans. To establish a foundation for assessing the robots' emotional capacities, I first define what emotions are by characterizing the components of emotion consistent across emotion theories. Second, I dissect the affective-cognitive architecture of MIT's Kismet and Leonardo, two robots explicitly designed to express emotions and to interact with humans, in order to explore whether they have emotions. I argue that, although Kismet and Leonardo lack the subjective feelings component of emotion, they are capable of having emotions.