The Uncanny Valley Hypothesis

David Webb

uncanny valley

The uncanny valley hypothesis, suggests that almost but not fully humanlike artificial characters will trigger a profound sense of unease. (Jari Kätsyri)

Personally speaking, my first trip down uneasy street occurred when I watched the film Magic starring Anthony Hopkins.

More recently, I was immediately transported back to uneasy street when I saw the trailer for Cats! It would appear I wasn't the only one. The Cats trailer goes deep into the Uncanny Valley and discovers there is no bottom. Pure, straight-up nightmare fuel. (Mathew Buck)

As the Cats trailer spectacularly demonstrates: The Uncanny Valley is when your eyes tell you something should be human but your mind goes, "Nope. NOPE. That's wrong. That's an unholy abomination that no merciful god would allow to exist," while alley-ooping backwards through the closest window to escape as quickly as possible. (Angie Barry)

Uncanny Valley Research

Empirical evidence for the existence of the Uncanny Valley is mixed. For instance, a systematic review paper concluded that that the uncanny valley exists only under specific conditions and that more research is still needed to pinpoint the exact conditions under which the uncanny valley phenomenon manifests itself. However, in a recent paper published in the journal Cognition, authors Maya Mathura and David Reichling found that while classic elements of human social psychology govern human–robot social interaction, robust UV effects pose a formidable android-specific problem.

A Great Teaching Topic

With the seemingly unstoppable advance of artificial intelligence, now would be a great time to discuss the Uncanny Valley Hypothesis with your students! Don't wait too long though! There's a humanlike psychology instructor robot out there who wants to take your place!

Dare You Venture Into The Uncanny Valley?

About The Author

David Webb is the owner, writer and host of four websites built around his teaching and research interests; including All-About-Psychology.Com which receives over two million visits a year.

A passionate promoter of psychology through social media, over 890,000 people follow his psychology Facebook page and he is featured on the British Psychological Society list of the 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter.

A bestselling author, his published work includes: The Psychology Student Guide - The Incredibly Interesting Psychology Book and, On This Day in Psychology.

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