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From Robots to Primates : Tracing the Uncanny Valley Effect to its Evolutionary Origin

Geue, Lara (2021) From Robots to Primates : Tracing the Uncanny Valley Effect to its Evolutionary Origin.

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Abstract:Despite years of research and an abundance of theoretical approaches, the underpinnings of the uncanny valley effect still remain a mystery. Recent research has argued that the negative appraisal of highly human-like entities is the result of fast-processing systems, rather than of slow, deliberate cognitive efforts. To shine light on its origin, we detach the uncanny valley effect from the field of robotics and investigate it from an evolutionary-psychological perspective with use of biological stimuli. In an online experiment, participants viewed and rated a range of primate and robot faces on eeriness and likeability. We introduced the concept of ancestral closeness as an objective measure for human-likeness. We were overall able to replicate the uncanny valley effect using primate faces and found it is highly likely to be experienced by every participant. Thereby, we support the involvement of evolved, fast-processing systems in bringing about the uncanny valley effect and argue against theories of realism inconsistency and traditional category uncertainty. Surprisingly, the stimuli falling into the uncanny valley had a visibly white sclera which we argue to be an evolved feature most distinctly displayed in homo sapiens. We conclude that the uncanny valley effect is a mechanism evolved under the selection pressure that benefits intraspecies communication, reproductive fitness and ultimately, self-preservation. These findings allow us to detach the phenomenon from its original context and pave the way for future research to unravel its evolutionary advantages.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
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