"The Polar Express" is Bipolar: Critical Film Reviews Influence Uncanny Valley Phenomenon in Animation Films


Previous research suggests that semi-realistic animation films such as The Polar Express are representative of the uncanny valley (UV) hypothesis, which predicts that highly human-like artificial characters can appear eerie. In the present study, we investigated the extent to which critical film reviews can influence the perceived eeriness of such films. The reviews were adopted from authentic ones and expressed either negative or positive attitudes towards the animation techniques. Audiovisual speech asynchrony, which is known to induce eeriness, was included as an objective manipulation. Our results showed large review tone effects for both implicit and explicit eeriness evaluations. In contrast, speech asynchrony failed to elicit significant effects. These results demonstrate that critical film reviews representing opposite attitudinal poles can elicit consistent changes in the viewers’ evaluations of semi-realistic animations. The present findings cannot, however, be taken as evidence against the UV hypothesis itself in computer-generated characters.

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