Uncanny Valley Theory
Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)
Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)
Concise description of theory
Masahiro Mori, a Robotics Professor, predicted the nature of humans’ impermanent feelings towards various human-like technological innovations in an essay published in 1970 (Mori, MacDorman, & Kageki, 2012). At first, the essay didn’t draw much attention, but with increasing applications of robots and other artificial agents in possibly every field, the hypothesised effect has become more relevant than ever. Consequently, leading many human-computer interaction researchers to assess the uncanny valley effect (Mori et al., 2012). In the translated version of Mori’s original essay, a non-linear relationship between a human’s affinity towards a robot and human-likeness of the robot is developed. The graph between affinity and human-likeness consists of a dip, termed as the “uncanny valley”, which pertains to the eeriness humans experience when subjected to an almost human-like robot (Mori et al., 2012). That is, as the human-likeness of the robot increases, the affinity increases at first, but after a certain point, the affinity reduces drastically indicating negative feelings towards the imperfect human-robot. The negative reactions can arise due to several reasons including disappointment when the robot is not exactly human or when it is perceived as a threat to human distinguishability (Ciechanowski, Przegalinska, Magnuski, & Gloor, 2019). The theory poses its obvious application as an effective means of navigation towards an efficient design of the interactive artificial agents. Over the years, the theory has been tested several times in various AI and robot-related studies. Despite the extensive analysis of the theory, the stance with respect to the uncanny valley remains inconclusive (Betriana, Osaka, Matsumoto, Tanioka, & Locsin, 2020; Burleigh, Schoenherr, & Lacroix, 2013; Mathur & Reichling, 2016). However, researchers continue to employ the theory to account for the varied array of human reactions towards non-human agents and improve understanding of the human-non-human interaction.
Diagram/schematic of theory
Groom, V., Nass, C., Chen, T., Nielsen, A., Scarborough, J. K., & Robles, E. (2009). Evaluating the effects of behavioral realism in embodied agents. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 67(10), 842–849. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2009.07.001 Ho, C. C., & MacDorman, K. F. (2010). Revisiting the uncanny valley theory: Developing and validating an alternative to the Godspeed indices. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(6), 1508–1518. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2010.05.015 Mori, M., MacDorman, K. F., & Kageki, N. (2012). The uncanny valley. IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 19(2), 98–100. https://doi.org/10.1109/MRA.2012.2192811 Burleigh, T. J., Schoenherr, J. R., & Lacroix, G. L. (2013). Does the uncanny valley exist? An empirical test of the relationship between eeriness and the human likeness of digitally created faces. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 759–771. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.021
Level of analysis
Betriana, F., Osaka, K., Matsumoto, K., Tanioka, T., & Locsin, R. C. (2020). Relating Mori’s Uncanny Valley in generating conversations with artificial affective communication and natural language processing. Nursing Philosophy, (June), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1111/nup.12322
Mathur, M. B., & Reichling, D. B. (2016). Navigating a social world with robot partners: A quantitative cartography of the Uncanny Valley. Cognition, 146, 22–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2015.09.008
Links from this theory to other theories
Theory of Planned Behaviour, Social Presence Theory, Realism Inconsistency Theory, Realism Maximization Theory, Consistency Theory
IS articles that use the theory
Ciechanowski, L., Przegalinska, A., Magnuski, M., & Gloor, P. (2019). In the shades of the uncanny valley: An experimental study of human–chatbot interaction. Future Generation Computer Systems, 92, 539–548. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.future.2018.01.055
Skjuve, M., & Haugstveit, I. M. (2019). HELP! IS MY CHATBOT FALLING INTO THE UNCANNY VALLEY? AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF USER EXPERIENCE IN HUMAN – CHATBOT INTERACTION.15(February), 30–54.
JOUR, Ciechanowski, Leon, Przegalinska, Aleksandra, Magnuski, Mikołaj, Gloor, Peter, 2018/02/06, In the Shades of the Uncanny Valley: An Experimental Study of Human-Chatbot Interaction, DO - 10.1016/j.future.2018.01.055, Future Generation Computer Systems
de Kleijn, R., van Es, L., Kachergis, G., & Hommel, B. (2019). Anthropomorphization of artificial agents leads to fair and strategic, but not altruistic behavior. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 122(September 2018), 168–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2018.09.008
Diksha Singh, Doctoral Student at Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India
Date last updated
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