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Upper- and lower-limb amputees show reduced levels of eeriness for images of prosthetic hands

Buckingham, Gavin and Parr, Johnny and Wood, Greg and Day, Sarah and Chadwell, Alix and Head, John and Galpin, Adam and Kenney, Laurence and Kyberd, Peter and Gowen, Emma and Poliakoff, Ellen (2019) Upper- and lower-limb amputees show reduced levels of eeriness for images of prosthetic hands. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. ISSN 1069-9384

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Abstract

The “uncanny phenomenon” describes the feeling of unease associated with seeing an image that is close to appearing human. Prosthetic hands in particular are well known to induce this effect. Little is known, however, about this phenomenon from the viewpoint of prosthesis users. We studied perceptions of eeriness and human-likeness for images of different types of mechanical, cosmetic, and anatomic hands in upper-limb prosthesis users (n=9), lower-limb prosthesis users (n=10), prosthetists (n=16), control participants with no prosthetic training (n=20), and control participants who were trained to use a myoelectric prosthetic hand simulator (n=23). Both the upper- and lower-limb prosthesis user groups showed a reduced uncanny phenomenon (i.e., significantly lower levels of eeriness) for cosmetic prosthetic hands compared to the other groups, with no concomitant reduction in how these stimuli were rated in terms of human-likeness. However, a similar effect was found neither for prosthetists with prolonged visual experience of prosthetic hands nor for the group with short-term training with the simulator. These findings in the prosthesis users therefore seem likely to be related to limb absence or prolonged experience with prostheses.

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