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Prosthet Orthot Int. 2018 Feb;42(1):21-27. doi: 10.1177/0309364617744083.

Investigating the uncanny valley for prosthetic hands.

Author information

1 Division of Neuoscience and Experimental Psychology, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, Manchester, UK.
2 Faculty of Engineering & Science, University of Greenwich, Chatham, UK.



In 1970, Mori hypothesised the existence of an 'uncanny valley', whereby stimuli falling short of being fully human are found to be creepy or eerie.


To investigate how eerie people find different prosthetic hands and whether perceptions of eeriness can be accounted for by categorical ambiguity.


Students participated in computerised experiments during which photographic images of hands were presented.


We compared photographs of prosthetic hands pre-selected as more (H+) or less human-like (H-), as well as mechanical and real hands. Participants rated the hands for eeriness and human-likeness, as well as performing a speeded classification (human/non-human) and location judgment (control) task.


The H- prosthetic hands were rated as more eerie than the H+ prosthetic, mechanical and real hands, and this was unaffected by hand orientation. Participants were significantly slower to categorise the H+ prosthetic hands compared to the H- prosthetic and real hands, which was not due to generally slower responses to the H+ prosthetic hands (control task).


People find prosthetic hands to be eerie, most consistently for less human-like prosthetic hands. This effect is not driven by ambiguity about whether to categorise the prosthetic hand as human or artificial. Clinical relevance More obviously artificial, less-realistic, prosthetic hands consistently generate a sense of eeriness, while more realistic prosthetic hands avoid the uncanny valley, at least on initial viewing. Thus, greater realism in prosthetic design may not always incur a cost, although the role of movement and cutaneous input requires further investigation.


Prosthetic design; affect; perception; prosthetics; uncanny valley

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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