Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Creepy Cyber-Monkeys Dwell in the Primate "Uncanny Valley"

80beatsBy Brett IsraelOctober 15, 2009 1:47 AM
monkey_web2.gif

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Humans typically feel uneasy when they see a very realistic human-looking robot or computer avatar, a phenomenon called the "uncanny valley" response. According to a new study performed with monkeys, that reaction might have an evolutionary basis. Researchers hypothesize that the response stems from almost realistic images that signal HUMAN! to us, but then fail to live up to the initial excitement. The uncanny valley response has been documented in humans since the 1970s, and has been blamed for the unpopularity of some CGI films with realistic characters

[like The Polar Express and Final Fantasy]

, and it is touted as the reason Pixar stuck to characters with cartoonish features [New Scientist].

uncanny-valley.jpg

The response takes its name from a graph (pictured at left) of human emotional response as a function of a depiction's human-likeness. As human-likeness increases, a positive emotional response also increases, until likeness reaches somewhere around 80 percent, then the emotional response shoots down to revulsion on par with viewing a human corpse. Uncanny valley response has never been observed in another species. So to investigate the response's evolutionary basis, researchers checked monkeys for the reaction.

To test their preference, researchers showed macaque monkeys real pictures, digital caricatures and realistic reconstructions of other monkey faces. To the latter, the macaques repeatedly averted their eyes [Wired.com], suggesting that monkeys also fall into the uncanny valley.

However the researchers couldn't determine for certain whether the monkeys were repulsed by the almost real faces, or were simply more attracted or interested in the others. The best way to do that would be to repeat these experiments while looking for possible signs of unease--

sweaty skin, dilated pupils or clenched facial muscles, as examples [Not Exactly Rocket Science].

The study was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Related content: 80beats: Maternal Monkey Love: Macaque Moms Coo Over Their Babies 80beats: Female Monkeys Chat More Than Males to Maintain Social Ties 80beats: Study Finds Chimps Do Die From HIV-Like Virus, Bucking Long-Held AssumptionImages: PNAS / Asif Ghazanfar and Shawn Steckenfinger

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In