Human observers often experience strongly negative impressions of human-like objects falling within a particular range of visual similarity to real humans (the "uncanny valley" phenomenon). We hypothesized that negative impressions in the uncanny valley phenomenon are related to a difficulty in object categorization. We produced stimulus images by morphing two of each of real, stuffed, and cartoon human face images (Experiment 1). Observers were asked to categorize each of these images as either category and evaluated the likability of the image. The results revealed that the longest latency, the highest ambiguity in categorization, and the lowest likability score co-occurred at consistent morphing percentages. Similar results were obtained even when we employed stimulus images that were created by morphing two of each of real, stuffed, and cartoon dog images (Experiment 2). However, the effect of categorization difficulty on evaluation was weak when two real human faces were morphed (Experiment 3). These results suggest that the difficulty in categorizing an object as either of two dissimilar categories is linked to negative evaluation regardless of whether the object is human-related or not.
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