Chapter 6
The Minds Mirror
and the Uncanny
Very oen we do manage to sense the inner states of others even
though they try to hide them. We feel sadness behind a faked smile,
or bad intentions behind seemingly generous actions. How do we
do it? How do we manage to feel what is concealed?
KEYSERS 2011, p. 9
     into why we may experience the
uncanny in human- like virtual characters featured in games and ani-
mation had thus far revealed that we have a more negative response to
human- like characters if we perceive a lack of empathy in that character
toward others. We may perceive a lack of responsiveness in that character
and an inability to show compassion toward others due to a lack of non-
verbal communication (NVC) in their upper face, which we rely on to
understand how that character is feeling and their likely behaviors. We
may be wary of more negative, antisocial personality traits in a character
due to their abnormal facial expression as a way to try to hide or conceal
more negative emotions, such as insincerity, untrustworthiness or sad-
ness behind a fake smile (Tinwell et al., 2011, Tinwell, Abdel- Nabi and
Charlton, 2013). is may be to the extent that we perceive psychopathic
tendencies in that character and a lack of concern for others as they fail
to demonstrate a convincing startled response to fearful and shocking
events (Tinwell, 2014; Tinwell et al., 2013). Recent ndings in neuroscience
126 The Uncanny Valley in Games and Animation
and psychology oered support for my psychological evaluation of the
uncanny in human- like virtual characters, and in this chapter I discuss
how fundamental neurological and physical processes such as mirror
neuron activity (MNA) and facial mimicry may be involved in our expe-
rience of the uncanny. With reference to work undertaken by neurosci-
entists such as Dr. Christian Keysers, professor in the social brain at the
University Medical Center Groningen, I explore the role that the brain
may play in uncanniness in human- like characters.
We instinctively mirror the actions of others as a way to understand
their behavior. If vital information is missing in a human- like character
such as a lack of facial expression and gesture, then this may result in cog-
nitive conict as we struggle to make sense of that character’s actions. In
this chapter, I also consider particular medical conditions that cause facial
paralysis, thus preventing humans from creating facial expressions and
mimicking those of others and the impact of this in social interaction—
especially how the possible negative implications of a lack of mimicry
opportunity in humans may relate to human– character interaction. is
includes previous research in those with Moebius syndrome that helps to
demonstrate how seemingly inconspicuous facial movements play a piv-
otal role in our daily lives. I provide an example of a human- like relational
agent featured in a serious game designed for learning purposes where a
lack of facial mimicry and emotional contagion in the virtual character
may negate a pupils ability to learn from and engage with that human- like
character. Building on this, I put forward that uncanniness may not only
occur in synthetic human- like agents but also in humans with abnormal
facial expression, such as in those who have had facial cosmetic proce-
dures such as Botox since it may prevent the opportunity for facial mim-
icry and shared emotional contagion.
In the early twentieth century, the German philosopher eodor Lipps
(18511914) introduced the concept of an automatic motor mimicry imita-
tion process, which allows us to understand the behavior and feelings of
others. Lipps (1905) proposed that people instinctively mimic the posture,
body movements, gestures, tone of speech and facial expressions displayed
in others and that this mimicry response may elicit corresponding emo-
tions in the observer. Since Lipps initial theory of mimicry, neuroscien-
tists and psychologists have continued to investigate the signicance of
how and the processes by which we interpret the behaviors and actions

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