Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Reducing the uncanny valley by dehumanizing humanoid robots

Yam, K.C., Bigman, Y., & Gray, K.
Computers in Human Behavior
Volume 125, December 2021, 106945


Humanoid robots are often experienced as unnerving, a psychological phenomenon called the “uncanny valley.” Past work reveals that humanlike robots are unnerving in part because they are ascribed humanlike feelings. We leverage this past work to provide a potential solution to the uncanny valley. Three studies reveal that “dehumanizing” humanoid robots—stripping robots of their apparent capacity for feelings—can significantly reduce the uncanny valley. Participants high on trait dehumanization (Study 1) or experimentally instructed to dehumanize (Study 2) reported lower feelings of uncanniness when viewing a humanoid robot, an effect mediated by reduced perceptions of feelings. We replicate these effects in an experimental field study where hotel guests interacted with real humanoid robots in Japan, and reveal that dehumanization reduces the uncanny valley without decreasing customers’ satisfaction (Study 3).


• The uncanny valley can be mitigated by a dehumanization manipulation.

• This effect is mediated by reduced experience perceptions.

• This simple manipulation can improve user experience of humanoid robots.