Have you heard of the uncanny valley? It’s a concept from robotics that as an artificial lifeform gets closer and closer to looking like a real human, it gets creepier and creepier. The explanation is that if something looks almost human, but isn’t quite there, we feel an instinctive sense of disgust towards it.
Take, for instance, this Cabbage Patch doll:
The doll represents a human child, but it’s so far from what an actual human child looks like that we don’t register it as human, so we’re fine with it.
Now, take a look at this robot:
It’s close enough to an actual human that we may mistake it for a human. But if we assume it’s an actual human, there’s something slightly “off” about it, and so it ends up looking creepy in some way.
Basically, the closer something gets to an actual human being, without being an actual human being, the creepier it looks. That’s what the uncanny valley refers to — this dip in our emotional response to a human likeness.
Anyway, I had another dumb epiphany recently, so here’s my second post in a row about food:
The concept of the uncanny valley totally applies to meat substitutes!
Take these, for instance:
Gardenburgers don’t even try to taste like real meat. They’re shaped like burger patties, but no one is ever going to mistake them for actual ground beef. And hey, I love them. (Well… as long as I’m not craving an actual burger.)
But these guys, on the other hand:
Ugh. I think they’re supposed to taste like actual burgers. And hey, maybe they even come somewhat close. But there’s just something “off” about them — the texture, the flavors, all of it. They just don’t taste right.
Yeah, they’re disgusting. And now, I have scientific proof why:
It’s because of the Uncanny Valley of Meat.