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Articles > Entertainment March, 21, 2016

Put Your Clown Phobia To The Test With the Uncanny Valley Challenge

Karla Welch
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Ever questioned the age-old fear of mannequins, clowns or robots? This theory may have the answers you’ve been looking for. Take the challenge and watch the creepy video below to see if you are affected by the uncanny valley…

WARNING: Contains creepy robot, mannequin, clown thing!

WARNING: Contains creepy robot, mannequin, clown thing!

UNCANNY VALLEY THEORY EXPLAINED (watch the video below):

Phobias vary from person to person. Common fears, like that of spiders or snakes, have an obvious cause based on actual knowledge of the threat they may pose to us and so we instinctively fear dangerous species. However there are other phobias with causes that are far more difficult to identify. Robots are not a clear threat. They don’t have the ability to think for themselves or cause us harm, so why are we afraid of them?

It is their ‘vagueness’ that stimulates this fear – The fact that they look almost human but with some crucial element missing. Masks and clowns, for instance, remove the expressive part of a face. The fixed smile and eyes do not allow us to accurately perceive the person’s emotions or intentions and it is perhaps this element of uncertainty that we fear. Beneath this mask of ambiguity could lie anything…

This ambiguity is also often present in real life situations. Have you ever stood on the edge of a cliff or building and felt the urge to jump? Or felt like you were being pushed? This is ambiguity. Our brain doesn’t know what could happen in this situation, and feels a desire to find out.

The uncanny valley theory responds to this ambiguity in the brain, and states that when features or movements of objects mimic human actions, it often causes repulsion or fear. The term ‘valley’ refers to a dip in the graph, indicating the simultaneous decline in our comfort level and increased sense of familiarity. The gaps in our knowledge create uncertainty and as such we simply define our experiences as creepy. Although, whilst this terrifies some people, it has little or no effect on others.

Are you still feeling a little unsure? If so, I challenge you to watch John Bergeron’s ‘I feel fantastic’ YouTube video. Alone. In a dark room. It’s regarded as one of the scariest videos online, and yet nobody quite understands why. However it is likely because it creates that same indefinable sense of uneasiness that we’ve been discussing.

Since everyone has different perceptions of what they consider scary, studies into the uncanny valley theory are certainly difficult to conduct. However I think it undoubtedly provides a solid hypothesis for explaining the cause of some of our most common phobias.

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  1. Kerris Burton

    I think many of us fear the unknown, take the dark for example. In many cases, it isn’t that the individual is scared of a darkened sky or lack of light, it is usually a fear of not being able to see and being ‘blind’ to all that is around them, their surroundings which they were once in control of have now become unknown to them, anything could be right in front of them, which I believe causes the imagination to run wild with this new open canvas and therefore causes fear within people.

    With this video (that definitely made me feel uneasy) I think the major aspect which terrified me was the tension brought as the video went on, I was personally afraid that the mannequin would do something unexpected to scare us e.g move closer to the camera at a rapid speed, again the fear of the unknown and ‘what ifs’.

    Another way this may be terrifying is simply because it isn’t seen in everyday situations, it isn’t the norm in horror films and thrillers. When we think of horror, we normally see blood, murderers, ghosts, monsters etc, however this effortless fright takes away those stereotypes and I think the fears people may get from watching this derive from not knowing how to understand what’s going on throughout the video. People find comfort in knowing they have control over things but with this I believe that comfort is nowhere to be found. Going back on to the fact that it isn’t seen in everyday life, think of children. Children aren’t educated on what is scary and what isn’t in thorough depth, so for me, I was scared of fireworks as a child, and this was because they were new and made me feel as if I didn’t have control over when they would happen or make the sound, it was the dreaded sight of seeing it go up into the air and covering my ears for the awaited BANG. So this could correlate with the creepy mannequin, no one really knows it’s intention or if it can do more than move or speak, it is almost like a cliffhanger, and the unknown is what I think can terrorize some.

  2. Stanley Jedrzejczyk

    This is what happens when Taylor Swift doesn’t take her medication.

  3. Jodie Coulson

    I do not have a fear of clowns or mannequins or dolls but oh my life this video made me feel sick!

  4. Hannah Dunigan

    I think between the very weird mannequin and the music you can see why it would scare people, but I just thought it was strange.

  5. Namfantastice

    I think…i feel fantastic