Investigating the uncanny valley

Investigating the uncanny valley

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” – Marianne Williamson

Safety..creepy…danger. There are always 3 points in this scenario:
On one side of this situational cliff you have safety, the place that most people like to be. The middle ground is creepy, that spot where it is slightly uncomfortable, disturbing and a bit off. On the far side of the spectrum you have danger, real danger, where you can get hurt.

kingAccording to Stephen King there are 3 levels to fear which are: The gross out, the horror and the terror.

The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there...”1


uncanny_graph_blogTerror, the Uncanny Valley, and Fear
The uncanny valley is when an object has features and moves similar to a human but something is off and not quite human which may cause a response of revulsion among people who witness this act. The valley is a dip in the level of comfort among the people that see this human likeness in objects such as robots, prosthetics, zombies, puppets, clowns, mannequins, teddy bears or something that mimics humans but periphery context is off. In many people unaccustomed to this may experience an unsettling feeling due to the closeness the above mentioned items resemble humans.2

babbyA fear that is brought up from masks or a neutral and vague expression creates a dissonance in the human brain since the person may get the creeps since the mask may hide the true intentions of who is behind the mask. Are they a threat or not?

doll-swap-faceAmbiguity causes a fear when uncertainty or in exactness of meaning in a person. When something is not clear or concise it can be construed as vague and humans dislike this fact. They prefer to have a solid answer so they can categorize things neatly. Most find vagueness creepy when in (a somewhat) human form.

American Fears, as taken from a Gallup poll 2001. Ranked in order:

  1. Snakes
  2. Public Speaking
  3. Heights
  4. Being in a small space
  5. Spiders and insects
  6. Needles and getting shots
  7. Mice
  8. Flying on an airplane
  9. Dogs
  10. Thunder and lightning
  11. Crowds
  12. Going to the doctor
  13. The dark3

Common Fears by a Gallup Poll conducted in 2005 reveals the most common fears of teenagers in the United States. Here are the top 10:

  1. Terrorist attacks
  2. Spiders
  3. Death
  4. Failure
  5. War
  6. Heights
  7. Crime/Violence
  8. Being alone
  9. The future
  10. Nuclear war4

Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.” – Charles Stanley

Risk and dangers are real, but fear is a choice.” – Chris Chaos

There is much truth to this quote, but some fears are rational and inbred into humans and animals alike. Natural fears are heights, predators, bugs, the dark and a few others.

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  1. Reference: “Stephen King: Master of Horror.” Jack Perkins, correspondent. NBC News. NBCUniversal Media. 27 Nov. 1981. NBC Learn 

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