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Alexander Diel, Karl F. MacDorman; Creepy cats and strange high houses: Support for configural processing in testing predictions of nine uncanny valley theories. Journal of Vision 2021;21(4):1. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.4.1.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In 1970, Masahiro Mori proposed the uncanny valley (UV), a region in a human-likeness continuum where an entity risks eliciting a cold, eerie, repellent feeling. Recent studies have shown that this feeling can be elicited by entities modeled not only on humans but also nonhuman animals. The perceptual and cognitive mechanisms underlying the UV effect are not well understood, although many theories have been proposed to explain them. To test the predictions of nine classes of theories, a within-subjects experiment was conducted with 136 participants. The theories’ predictions were compared with ratings of 10 classes of stimuli on eeriness and coldness indices. One type of theory, configural processing, predicted eight out of nine significant effects. Atypicality, in its extended form, in which the uncanny valley effect is amplified by the stimulus appearing more human, also predicted eight. Threat avoidance predicted seven; atypicality, perceptual mismatch, and mismatch+ predicted six; category+, novelty avoidance, mate selection, and psychopathy avoidance predicted five; and category uncertainty predicted three. Empathy's main prediction was not supported. Given that the number of significant effects predicted depends partly on our choice of hypotheses, a detailed consideration of each result is advised. We do, however, note the methodological value of examining many competing theories in the same experiment.
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