Senior Editor
03.09.10 17 Comments

Even a monkey could tell you Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture movies — Beowulf, Polar Express, A Christmas Carol — are creepy.  It’s dumb; they don’t look like people, they don’t look like cartoons, they’re just weird, shiny sentient condoms.  And I’m serious about the monkeys, it’s science.  From Scientific American:

These too real facsimiles fall into the so-called uncanny valley, between acceptably fake-looking human representations and real, healthy humans. Psychologists have long wondered whether this aversion has an evolutionary basis, and new research on macaques suggests that it does.

Princeton University researchers presented images of real monkey faces, unrealistic animated faces and realistic animated faces to five monkey subjects and recorded how long they gazed at each. Similar to the human response to objects in the uncanny valley, the monkeys avoided looking at the most realistic animated faces. The scientists, who published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, speculate that realistic animations might resemble sickly or diseased animals because they lack subtle cues of health such as normal skin texture and hue—and that an aversion to such sights may have evolved to keep us healthy.

Crap, what happened?  I zoned out near the beginning, when I started daydreaming about a bunch of hot psychologists doing intensive research on macaque.

Whatever, dude, macaque jokes never get old.   [-Thanks to K-squared for the tip]

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