Dislike for humanoid robots develops with age

Experiments have shown that the effect of the “sinister valley” occurs in childhood, and the kids do not yet have any dislike for anthropomorphic robots.

The “sinister valley” hypothesis indicates that robots and objects that look very similar to humans, but do not accurately replicate it, cause us disgust and dislike. However, the effect was purely a cultural phenomenon: experiments with children showed that the youngest still do not find anything sinister in such robots. About this work, a psychologist from Michigan University Kimberly Brink (Kimberly Brink) told in an interview with NPR.

The effect of the “sinister valley” was noticed by Japanese researchers back in the late 1970s, which showed that the more a robot is more like a human, the more it seems to us prettier, but the most humanlike ones are unexpectedly unpleasant. The reasons for this phenomenon are unclear, but it may not be so deeply “stitched” in our psyche, as was thought.

Kimberly Brink and her colleagues interviewed 240 children aged 3 to 18 years: they were shown videos of three different robots and asked to describe their attitude towards them. One of the machines was similar to the classic robot (as familiar to all from the cartoon Wall-E), the other – to a man, the third looked like a combination of both.

It turned out that the kids still do not feel any dislike for humanlike machines: the changes come about nine years. This, according to scientists, indicates that the effect of the “sinister valley” is developing with age. According to them, from the point of view of the child, the robots have their own “consciousness” (as indicated by its anthropomorphism) is very attractive. Conversely, for an adult, the “consciousness” of the robot and its ability to act independently is a rather frightening thing.