Zombies seem to be edging out vampires as our favourite undead villains – thanks to movies such as World War Z and the hit TV series The Walking Dead.
Researching what it is about zombies and the like that provokes such an instinctive disquiet, Open University research student Stephanie Lay found it is primarily “dead” eyes or human eyes in a non-human face. Her finding was based on surveys and experiments involving 3,000 people.
“We are used to seeing and processing human faces… but seeing an eerie, near-human image such as a zombie – which technically has all the features that should make it recognisable to us as a human – is something entirely new, and our brains don’t know how to process this,” Ms. Lay said.
The phenomenon was coined the “uncanny valley” in the 1970s by a Japanese robotics expert, who noted that people feel affection for robots who have some facial features, but become repulsed as robots become more human-like.
“This deviation point is the uncanny valley,” she said, in an article published in the online news site, The Conversation.