At some point in the history of mankind, adults made a very strange decision. They all got together and, after what I assume was a very tense back and forth debate, voted that kids love clowns. They decided clowns should be at any children’s event, terrorizing birthday parties, causing panic at circuses and carnivals, leading to years of therapy by handing out candy at parades. Anywhere kids would be, clowns would also be there lurking in the background.
Needless to say, this did not set so well with some children. It turns out that a stranger wearing a disguise who can pull endless handkerchiefs out of their bodily orifices is not always a comforting sight to children. It can be a bit alarming, particularly when they start hitting each other with giant squeaky hammers
It is not rare to see a child burst into tears at the sight of a clown. They know the clowns are creepy. Everyone knows the clowns are creepy. We just do not know why we think they are so creepy.
Fortunately science is here to explain it to us.
Ayse Saygin, professor at the University of California, San Diego, has begun studying this phenomenon with state of the art equipment. She has used tools to measure brain waves and apply them to an old theory called the “uncanny valley.” (Also a great name for a generic salad dressing.)
The UncannyValley theory is simple: We are stupid. Sure, we humans like to think we are smart. In reality, though, we are all a bunch of big dummies.
Because of our stupid dumb brains, we cannot comprehend some things. When we see something that looks human, but is just a bit off, our brain freaks out and starts screaming:
“I DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING THERE, BUT THAT THING LOOKS ALMOST HUMAN!”
“Well, I suppose that’s because it’s a human being in white makeup.”
“I DON’T GIVE A CRAP WHAT IT IS! RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!”
Brains are always very panicky.
This theory makes perfect sense. In fact, every single thing I think is creepy can be applied to this theory. Every one of them has human aspects, but is not human. I feel that animals wearing clothing are creepy. I think mascot costumes that are designed to look like people are creepy. I think Bruce Jenner’s face is creepy.
It also explains my strong dislike for the movie “Polar Express.” I mean, have you seen those character? They look like people, but not real people. It’s what I imagine the child of a human and Beetle Bailey might look like: half cartoon, half real. Plus, where did the train come from? I mean, it is totally unrealistic. I have never once woken up to find a train conductor trying to get me out of bed and onto a train. If I did, I would definitely call 9-1-1. Train conductors should not come into my house unannounced, particularly if they are creepy half-cartoon creatures.
One of the biggest issues with this comes in the form of robots. As our technology has improved, we have built bigger and better robots. These robots are looking more and more lifelike. They still, though, have a huge creepy factor when anything inhuman seems to take place because of them.
With this testing, scientists hope to be able to create more lifelike robots that do not creep out real people. For some reason, dozens of scientists want to create robots that are so lifelike that they can blend into everyday life. Using this theory, they will be able to tell exactly what it is that people do not like about their creepy robots until, one day, they have created the perfect noncreepy humanoid creature.
Of course, the likelihood that robots destroy us all before that point seems very strong.
Talk about creepy…
- Why Zombies, Robots, Clowns Freak Us Out (fox8.com)
- Why zombies, robots, clowns freak us out (cnn.com)
- Do Human Expressions Make These Robots Less Creepy – Or More? (gizmodo.co.uk)
- Uncanny Valley Watch: Making Android Faces (livescience.com)