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Biol Lett. 2012 Oct 23;8(5):725-8. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0346. Epub 2012 Jun 13.

Infants prefer the faces of strangers or mothers to morphed faces: an uncanny valley between social novelty and familiarity.

Author information

1
Okanoya Emotional Information Project, Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Saitama, Japan. matsuda@brain.riken.jp

Abstract

The 'uncanny valley' response is a phenomenon involving the elicitation of a negative feeling and subsequent avoidant behaviour in human adults and infants as a result of viewing very realistic human-like robots or computer avatars. It is hypothesized that this uncanny feeling occurs because the realistic synthetic characters elicit the concept of 'human' but fail to satisfy it. Such violations of our normal expectations regarding social signals generate a feeling of unease. This conflict-induced uncanny valley between mutually exclusive categories (human and synthetic agent) raises a new question: could an uncanny feeling be elicited by other mutually exclusive categories, such as familiarity and novelty? Given that infants prefer both familiarity and novelty in social objects, we address this question as well as the associated developmental profile. Using the morphing technique and a preferential-looking paradigm, we demonstrated uncanny valley responses of infants to faces of mothers (i.e. familiarity) and strangers (i.e. novelty). Furthermore, this effect strengthened with the infant's age. We excluded the possibility that infants detect and avoid traces of morphing. This conclusion follows from our finding that the infants equally preferred strangers' faces and the morphed faces of two strangers. These results indicate that an uncanny valley between familiarity and novelty may accentuate the categorical perception of familiar and novel objects.

PMID:
22696289
PMCID:
PMC3440980
DOI:
10.1098/rsbl.2012.0346
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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