Monkeys and the Uncanny Valley [study]

“The concept of the uncanny valley suggests that humanoid objects which imperfectly resemble actual human beings provoke uncanny or strangely familiar feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers.” Source: Wikipedia

Since its discovery in 1970, many follow-up studies have confirmed the effect in human observers. But what about other animals, say, monkeys? Are they also perturbed by almost-but-not-quite-realistic images of themselves?

A 2009 study from Shawn A. Steckenfinger and Asif A. Ghazanfar of the Neuroscience Institute, Departments of Psychology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, at Princeton University, US, suggested that the answer is probably ‘yes’.

Five macaque monkeys, (Macaca fascicularis) were shown real and computer-generated pseudo-real images of fellow monkeys – while their gaze was tracked. With the finding that :

“They preferred to look at unrealistic synthetic faces and real faces more than to realistic synthetic faces.”

See: Steckenfinger, Shawn A., and Asif A. Ghazanfar. 2009. “Monkey Visual Behavior Falls into the Uncanny Valley.” , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (43): 18362–18366.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

Improbable Research