Reducing the uncanny valley by dehumanizing humanoid robots

Kai Chi Yam*, Yochanan Bigman, Kurt Gray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Humanoid robots are often experienced as unnerving, a psychological phenomenon called the “uncanny valley.” Past work reveals that humanlike robots are unnerving in part because they are ascribed humanlike feelings. We leverage this past work to provide a potential solution to the uncanny valley. Three studies reveal that “dehumanizing” humanoid robots—stripping robots of their apparent capacity for feelings—can significantly reduce the uncanny valley. Participants high on trait dehumanization (Study 1) or experimentally instructed to dehumanize (Study 2) reported lower feelings of uncanniness when viewing a humanoid robot, an effect mediated by reduced perceptions of feelings. We replicate these effects in an experimental field study where hotel guests interacted with real humanoid robots in Japan, and reveal that dehumanization reduces the uncanny valley without decreasing customers’ satisfaction (Study 3).

Original languageAmerican English
Article number106945
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Dehumanization
  • Human robot interaction
  • Mind perceptions
  • Uncanny valley


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