Anthropomorphism Influences Perception of Computer-Animated Characters' Action

Thierry Chaminade† , Jessica Hodgins†, & Mitsuo Kawato†#
† Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute, Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, Keihanna Science City, Kyoto, 619-0288, Japan
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890, USA
# ICORP Computational Brain Project, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Keihanna Science City, Kyoto, 619-0288, Japan


Computer-animated characters are common in popular culture and have begun to be used as experimental tools in social cognitive neurosciences. Here we investigated how appearance of these characters' influences perception of their actions. Subjects were presented with different characters animated either with motion data captured from human actors or by interpolating between arbitrary keyframes, and were asked to categorize the motion as biological or artificial. The response bias towards "biological", derived from the Signal Detection Theory, decreases with characters' anthropomorphism, while sensitivity is only affected by the simplest rendering style, point-light displays. fMRI showed that the response bias correlates with activity in the mentalizing network including left temporoparietal junction and anterior cingulate cortex. Reduced mentalizing towards anthropomorphic agents could explain why their motion is perceived as less natural, highlighting the sensitivity of the system devoted to action perception to visible human characteristics. As they influence an observer's perception of action and its neural correlates, computer-animated characters are invaluable tools to investigate the neural basis of social understanding.


Paper - PDF


The following movies were encoded with a Divx avi compression. The Divx codec is available at

You can either click on the thumbnail to play the movie or right click
to download it and play it in Windows media player or equivalent.