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Alexander Diel, Michael Lewis; Familiarity, orientation, and realism increase face uncanniness by sensitizing to facial distortions. Journal of Vision 2022;22(4):14. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.22.4.14.
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The uncanny valley predicts aversive reactions toward near-humanlike entities. Greater uncanniness is elicited by distortions in realistic than unrealistic faces, possibly due to familiarity. Experiment 1 investigated how familiarity and inversion affect uncanniness of facial distortions and the ability to detect differences between the distorted variants of the same face (distortion sensitivity). Familiar or unfamiliar celebrity faces were incrementally distorted and presented either upright or inverted. Uncanniness ratings increased across the distortion levels, and were stronger for familiar and upright faces. Distortion sensitivity increased with increasing distortion difference levels, again stronger for familiar and upright faces. Experiment 2 investigated how face realism, familiarity, and face orientation interacted for the increase of uncanniness across distortions. Realism increased the increase of uncanniness across the distortion levels, further enhanced by upright orientation and familiarity. The findings show that familiarity, upright orientation, and high face realism increase the sensitivity of uncanniness, likely by increasing distortion sensitivity. Finally, a moderated linear function of face realism and deviation level could explain the uncanniness of stimuli better than a quadratic function. A re-interpretation of the uncanny valley as sensitivity toward deviations from familiarized patterns is discussed.
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