Have you ever met someone who was creeped out (or even frightened) by dolls or clowns? While most of us may wonder if the hysteria is overblown
(others like to tease them for this), this phenomenon is actually something that is being studied by engineers, psychologists, anthropologists, and
any number of "ists" in various fields. It's the question of "how do we recognize 'wrongness' in something?" and it seems we share this concept with
other species such as dolphins and whales (and dogs and cats and many other things.)
It's called the "Uncanny Valley"
The "uncanny valley" effect occurs when something LOOKS human (or like another species) but is just SLIGHTLY "off." So, while we don't blink at a toy
stuffed kitty, a badly stuffed taxidermy model sets off vibes of "that's just wrong", and a taxidermy model that moves sets off a feeling of "That's
just REALLY wrong!"
As TvTropes explains it (rather nicely)
For example, most lovable Robot Buddies look humanoid, but keep quirky and artistically mechanical affectations. However, at some point, the
likeness would seem too strong, and it would just come across as a very strange human being. At this point, the acceptance drops suddenly, changing to
a powerful negative reaction.
CGI effects can often have the same effect, which is why moviemakers are very careful in what skins they use and what modifications they make. It
wouldn't do to have the audience trigger on a "creepy" feeling when you'd intended "cute and friendly."
The "uncanny valley" point for all of us is an individual thing. Some people are bothered by dolls, some are frightened out by clowns or mimes or
things that "sorta" look human. Most of us don't have this reaction but the boundaries vary. So one of the cutting edge fields in science and
entertainment is this "uncanny valley" -- in other words, how do we make something acceptable (or creepy, if we're trying to put out a horror film) to
Cue the recent stories (mentioned here on ATS) about a disabled
apparently becoming part of a pod of sperm whales -- which is an indication of the "uncanny valley" effect in dolphins. In this case, a
deformed dolphin was left without a pod and has apparently joined a pod of whales. The spinal deformity is enough to get it pushed out of the dolphin
pod (the "uncanny valley" -- something's wrong with this dolphin) but is not "creepy" enough to the whales that the whales reject the dolphin.
Uncanny Valley studies are critical to developing prosthetics (at what level is your prosthetic hand considered scary or ignorable by the public) and
in many other fields.
And this all grew out of an attempt by scientists to find out "what makes
edit on 29-1-2013 by Byrd because: (no reason given)