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PLoS One. 2009 Sep 16;4(9):e6974. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006974.

A non-humanoid robot in the "uncanny valley": experimental analysis of the reaction to behavioral contingency in 2-3 year old children.

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Graduate School of Human-Environment Studies, Kyushu University, Fukuoka-Shi, Fukuoka, Japan.


Infants' sensitivity to social or behavioral contingency has been examined in the field of developmental psychology and behavioral sciences, mainly using a double video paradigm or a still face paradigm. These studies have shown that infants distinguish other individuals' contingent behaviors from non-contingent ones. The present experiment systematically examined if this ability extends to the detection of non-humanoids' contingent actions in a communicative context. We examined two- to three-year-olds' understanding of contingent actions produced by a non-humanoid robot. The robot either responded contingently to the actions of the participants (contingent condition) or programmatically reproduced the same sequence of actions to another participant (non-contingent condition). The results revealed that the participants exhibited different patterns of response depending on whether or not the robot responded contingently. It was also found that the participants did not respond positively to the contingent actions of the robot in the earlier periods of the experimental sessions. This might reflect the conflict between the non-humanlike appearance of the robot and its humanlike contingent actions, which presumably led the children to experience the uncanny valley effect.

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