Children’s perception of uncanny human-like virtual characters

Angela Tinwell, Robin J. S. Sloan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The Uncanny Valley phenomenon predicts that humans will be less accepting, to the point of rejection, of synthetic agents with a human-like appearance. This is due to a perception of a strangeness or difference in how those characters look and behave from the human norm. Virtual characters with a human-like appearance are increasingly being used in children’s animation and video games. While studies have been conducted in adult perception of the Uncanny Valley in human-like virtual characters, little work exists that explores children’s perception of “uncanniness” in human-like virtual characters. Sixty-seven children between 9 and 11 years of age rated humans and human-like virtual characters showing different facial expressions for perceived strangeness, friendliness, and human-likeness. The results showed that children do experience uncanniness in human-like virtual characters, perceived as stranger, less friendly, and less human-like than humans. This perception of the uncanny was exaggerated further in human-like characters with aberrant facial expression. That is, when showing a startled expression and/or happiness with a lack of movement in the upper face including the eyes, eyebrows, and forehead. The possible implications of including human-like virtual characters in animation and video games for this age group are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-296
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date4 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Children
  • Facial expression
  • Video games
  • Animation
  • Uncanny Valley
  • Human-like characters


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