Frightening humanity: Deep in the "sinister valley"

Human brain activity when looking at the robot, humanoid robot and human

The humanoid robot Repliee Q2 and just human

The “sinister valley” effect is associated with our aversion to everything that looks almost like us, but not quite like us

This effect is known in psychology as the “sinister valley” (due to the characteristic shape of the curve, which you can see in one of the illustrations on the left). Its reason is not completely clear, although it can be assumed that this is due to the evolutionarily “embedded” in us mechanism that causes an aversion to any deviations from a certain norm. Perhaps, unconsciously, a robot that is too similar to a person is no longer perceived as a robot, and we treat it as a "unfinished" person, a parody of a person.

Recently, Ayse Saygin’s team, having gathered courage, went down to the most “sinister valley” and explored what happens in the human brain.

For this, 20 healthy volunteers aged 20 to 36 years were selected, none of whom, by the nature of their activity, regularly encounters robots and did not spend a long time in Japan. The volunteers were shown 12 videos of the humanoid robot Repliee Q2, performing the usual simple actions - waving, taking a glass of water or a piece of paper, nodding. The recordings of ordinary living people performing the same actions were shown, as well as the recordings of the Repliee Q2 robot performing these actions, but without the external “skin”, a shell that gives it a frightening humanoid. During the show, the volunteers were scanned with a tomograph, and the scan results were analyzed.

Scientists have come to the conclusion that when viewing records of a humanoid robot, a real conflict begins in the brain. More precisely, there is an increased activity of the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex, which, in particular, connects the motor parts of the brain with the analysis of movements. According to the authors of the work, this indicates the appearance of a discrepancy between our expectations of how the object should move and how it moves in reality.

“By and large, ” says Aisha Saigin, “the brain is not interested in either appearance or movement. His expectations, which must be fulfilled, are important to him. In particular, that the appearance and movement consistent with each other. "

According to a press release from the University of California, San Diego


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