Asynchrony enhances uncanniness in human, android, and virtual dynamic facial expressions

Objective: Uncanniness plays a vital role in interactions with humans and artificial agents. Previous studies have shown that uncanniness is caused by a higher sensitivity to deviation or atypicality in specialized categories, such as faces or facial expressions, marked by configural processing. We hypothesized that asynchrony, understood as a temporal deviation in facial expression, could cause uncanniness in the facial expression. We also hypothesized that the effect of asynchrony could be disrupted through inversion.
Results: Sixty-four participants rated the uncanniness of synchronous or asynchronous dynamic face emotion expressions of human, android, or computer-generated (CG) actors, presented either upright or inverted. Asynchrony vs. synchrony expressions increased uncanniness for all upright expressions except for CG angry expressions. Inverted compared with upright presentations produced less evident asynchrony effects for human angry and android happy expressions. These results suggest that asynchrony can cause dynamic expressions to appear uncanny, which is related to configural processing but different across agents.


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