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The human likeness dimension of the "uncanny valley hypothesis": behavioral and functional MRI findings


Cheetham, Marcus; Suter, Pascal; Jäncke, Lutz (2011). The human likeness dimension of the "uncanny valley hypothesis": behavioral and functional MRI findings. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5:126.

Abstract

The uncanny valley hypothesis (Mori, 1970) predicts differential experience of negative and positive affect as a function of human likeness. Affective experience of humanlike robots and computer-generated characters (avatars) dominates "uncanny" research, but findings are inconsistent. Importantly, it is unknown how objects are actually perceived along the hypothesis' dimension of human likeness (DOH), defined in terms of human physical similarity. To examine whether the DOH can also be defined in terms of effects of categorical perception (CP), stimuli from morph continua with controlled differences in physical human likeness between avatar and human faces as endpoints were presented. Two behavioral studies found a sharp category boundary along the DOH and enhanced visual discrimination (i.e., CP) of fine-grained differences between pairs of faces at the category boundary. Discrimination was better for face pairs presenting category change in the human-to-avatar than avatar-to-human direction along the DOH. To investigate brain representation of physical change and category change along the DOH, an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study used the same stimuli in a pair-repetition priming paradigm. Bilateral mid-fusiform areas and a different right mid-fusiform area were sensitive to physical change within the human and avatar categories, respectively, whereas entirely different regions were sensitive to the human-to-avatar (caudate head, putamen, thalamus, red nucleus) and avatar-to-human (hippocampus, amygdala, mid-insula) direction of category change. These findings show that Mori's DOH definition does not reflect subjective perception of human likeness and suggest that future "uncanny" studies consider CP and the DOH's category structure in guiding experience of non-human objects.

The uncanny valley hypothesis (Mori, 1970) predicts differential experience of negative and positive affect as a function of human likeness. Affective experience of humanlike robots and computer-generated characters (avatars) dominates "uncanny" research, but findings are inconsistent. Importantly, it is unknown how objects are actually perceived along the hypothesis' dimension of human likeness (DOH), defined in terms of human physical similarity. To examine whether the DOH can also be defined in terms of effects of categorical perception (CP), stimuli from morph continua with controlled differences in physical human likeness between avatar and human faces as endpoints were presented. Two behavioral studies found a sharp category boundary along the DOH and enhanced visual discrimination (i.e., CP) of fine-grained differences between pairs of faces at the category boundary. Discrimination was better for face pairs presenting category change in the human-to-avatar than avatar-to-human direction along the DOH. To investigate brain representation of physical change and category change along the DOH, an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study used the same stimuli in a pair-repetition priming paradigm. Bilateral mid-fusiform areas and a different right mid-fusiform area were sensitive to physical change within the human and avatar categories, respectively, whereas entirely different regions were sensitive to the human-to-avatar (caudate head, putamen, thalamus, red nucleus) and avatar-to-human (hippocampus, amygdala, mid-insula) direction of category change. These findings show that Mori's DOH definition does not reflect subjective perception of human likeness and suggest that future "uncanny" studies consider CP and the DOH's category structure in guiding experience of non-human objects.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:08 May 2012 14:10
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:40
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1662-5161
Publisher DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2011.00126
PubMed ID:22131970
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-60037

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