The interaction of robotics with behavioral and cognitive sciences has always been tight. As often described in the literature, the living has inspired the construction of many robots. Yet, in this article, we focus on the reverse phenomenon: building robots can impact importantly the way we conceptualize behavior and cognition in animals and humans. This article presents a series of paradigmatic examples spanning from the modelling of insect navigation, the experimentation of the role of morphology to control locomotion, the development of foundational representations of the body and of the self/other distinction, the self-organization of language in robot societies, and the use of robots as therapeutic tools for children with developmental disorders. Through these examples, I review the way robots can be used as operational models confronting specific theories to reality, or can be used as proof of concepts, or as conceptual exploration tools generating new hypotheses, or used as experimental set ups to uncover particular behavioral properties in animals or humans, or even used as therapeutic tools. Finally, I discuss the fact that in spite of its role in the formation of many fundamental theories in behavioral and cognitive sciences, the use of robots is far from being accepted as a standard tool and contributions are often forgotten, leading to regular rediscoveries and slowing down cumulative progress. The article concludes by highlighting the high priority of further historical and epistemological work.
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