Researchers have identified a network of brain regions that work together to determine if a robot is a worthy social partner, according to a new study published in JNeurosci.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten, Fabien Grabenhorst and colleagues evaluated brain activity from the prefrontal cortex and amygdala as human participants scored images of robots on their likability, familiarly, and human-likeness. The participants also chose the robot from which they would prefer to receive a gift, indicating their social value.
Participants preferred more lifelike robots, but disliked the ones that appeared "too human," including artificially altered humans. Activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex followed the same pattern, increasing with the more lifelike robots until dropping significantly in relation to the most lifelike choice. The scientists concluded that each of several brain regions had a unique role in assessing the images, and the combination of their inputs determined whether or not a robot was likeable.
This direct representation of a psychological pattern in the brain provides insight into how people respond to and assess artificial social partners. The findings may also apply to the evaluation of human social partners.
Manuscript title: Neural Mechanisms for Accepting and Rejecting Artificial Social Partners in the Uncanny Valley*
*A preprint of this manuscript has been posted by the University of Cambridge
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JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.
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The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.