The uncanny advantage of using androids in cognitive and social science research

Interaction Studies. Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies / Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies 7 (3):297-337 (2006)
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Abstract

The development of robots that closely resemble human beings can contribute to cognitive research. An android provides an experimental apparatus that has the potential to be controlled more precisely than any human actor. However, preliminary results indicate that only very humanlike devices can elicit the broad range of responses that people typically direct toward each other. Conversely, to build androids capable of emulating human behavior, it is necessary to investigate social activity in detail and to develop models of the cognitive mechanisms that support this activity. Because of the reciprocal relationship between android development and the exploration of social mechanisms, it is necessary to establish the field of android science. Androids could be a key testing ground for social, cognitive, and neuroscientific theories as well as platform for their eventual unification. Nevertheless, subtle flaws in appearance and movement can be more apparent and eerie in very humanlike robots. This uncanny phenomenon may be symptomatic of entities that elicit our model of human other but do not measure up to it. If so, very humanlike robots may provide the best means of pinpointing what kinds of behavior are perceived as human, since deviations from human norms are more obvious in them than in more mechanical-looking robots. In pursuing this line of inquiry, it is essential to identify the mechanisms involved in evaluations of human likeness. One hypothesis is that, by playing on an innate fear of death, an uncanny robot elicits culturally-supported defense responses for coping with death’s inevitability. An experiment, which borrows from methods used in terror management research, was performed to test this hypothesis. [Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators: Fast Breaking Paper in Social Sciences, May 2008]

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Hiroshi Ishiguro
Osaka University

References found in this work

Computing machinery and intelligence.Alan M. Turing - 1950 - Mind 59 (October):433-60.
The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.Marc H. Bornstein - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (2):203-206.
The denial of death.Ernest Becker - 1973 - New York,: Free Press.

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