Uncanny Valley and the fear of dolls.

The most common comment and complaint I hear when I tell people about my dolls and the hobby is how creepy they are. Trust me, I’m used to it. I don’t get offended because I understand as humans we perceive things differently, and something that’s beautiful to me could very well be horrendous to the next person in line. It’s not a tragedy that they can’t see the same way.

There is, however, a common term that helps explain why dolls can be so creepy to a person. It’s Uncanny Valley, and though it’s greatly defined by the field of robotics, the idea remains the same:

“The uncanny valley was a term originally coined by Masahiro Mori in 1970[1] to describe the eerie and unsettling response of people when confronted with an android that is not quite human. Despite very little quantitative data on the term, it is one of the most valiant terms in the field of robotics and has enjoyed great popularity and debate since its inception.

Although the “uncanny valley” was formulated within the context of robotics research, the term uncanny has a long critical tradition and should be considered a paradigmatic example for how Cyborg Anthropology can contribute to the discourse on technological interfaces. The uncanny arises when one is confronted with something that transgresses the boundaries of our conceptions of normal, and thus seems to be one of the key responses invoked in confrontations with the border between humans and machines.” – Exerpt from cyborganthropology.com

The website goes on to explain some of the examples uncanny valley can arise from. Animals acting very humanlike, a person with a neurological disorder that interrupts our preconceived notions of how a human should act, and an android (we could say doll with this) that has incredibly realistic skin and facial expressions.

It’s a common thing, and honestly some of these examples would even creep me out. Perhaps though, understanding that it’s a common response to things of this nature would help cope with the fear or destroy it as a whole. Probably not, but I hope putting the idea out there at least helps a little.

I’ll end this post with a youtube video that pretty much summarizes exactly what I just said.


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