BEST IELTS General Reading Test 450

BEST IELTS General Reading Test 450

IELTS General Reading Test
BEST IELTS General Reading Test 450

Human distrust of robots that look like us

A. We humans have evolved to relate emotionally to non-living objects, which is strange when you think about it. Children play with dolls and toy soldiers as if they were people. Adults talk to their cars. As long as they are robotlike and ‘mechanical’, we are comfortable around them, and can display affection (as for an old car). But when it comes to human-like robots, something different happens. As they become more human-like, our affection disappears and we begin to feel less comfortable. Our liking turns to revulsion. Androids that look too human freak us out.

B. This odd phenomenon is called the ‘uncanny valley’, a term coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori. But the effect has particularly confused and puzzled engineers and scientists who design robots and interactive software. The term comes from the dip in a graph with two parameters: affection and human likeness. As human likeness increases, so does our affection. As soon as the resemblance becomes too great, though, affection drops below zero – hence the ‘valley’.

IELTS General Reading Test

The effect was highlighted by studies of machines such as the Geminoid F robot, created by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Kyoto University. His robots have human-like bodies but their movements, although impressively humanlike, show something of the mechanism beneath their ‘skin’ and people didn’t respond well to them. Making robots look human is a major goal of robotic engineers and scientific writers have long dreamt of androids, so the ‘uncanny valley’ could potentially spell the end to their dream.

C. Researchers have tried to find the cause of the ‘uncanny valley’. One of the most interesting insights has come from an international team led by Ayse Pinar Saygin of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Saygin and her team conducted an experiment scanning the brains of twenty subjects aged 20-36 while they were looking at three different things: a human, a mechanical-looking robot, and a human-like robot. Interpreting the results from the fMRI scans, the researchers suggested that the cause for the valley is a conflict in perception between two processes in the brain: that of recognising a human-like face and that of recognising different kinds of movement.

IELTS General Reading Test

D. These processes, or pathways, meet in an area of the brain called the parietal cortex. There, information from the visual cortex relating to bodily movement is integrated with information from the motor cortex that contains mirror neurons, the brain cells that register that what we are seeing is ‘one of us’.

Alarm bells go off in the brain when there is a conflict between the human-like features of the robot and its inhuman movement. This mismatch creates a feeling of revulsion similar to what we feel when looking at a movie zombie. We instinctively expect human-like creatures to have human-like movements. As Saygin says: ‘The brain … look(s) for its expectations to be met – for appearance and motion to (match).’

IELTS General Reading Test

E. The discomfort we feel is not logical and has its roots in our evolutionary past. Researchers believe that the modern mind came into being between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago when pathways in the brain became connected, probably thanks to the evolution of language. The way we understand our world then emerged from these new connections. Robotic evolution challenges this mental ‘software’ of ours. The ‘uncanny valley’ seems to represent the point at which logic stops and our instincts start to react.

F. Despite such studies, many (e.g. MacDorman et al) believe that cultural factors also contribute to the effect, and researchers have pointed to the fact that young people who are used to technology seem less affected by the effect. Furthermore, the ‘uncanny valley’ effect has been observed in our response to still photographs of humans that have been altered slightly with Photoshop software. Even as far back as the 19th century, the great naturalist Charles Darwin noticed that we react most adversely to species with eyes, nose and mouth arranged like our own. The phenomenon may therefore be more complex than Saygin’s research suggests.

IELTS General Reading Test

G. So is this the end of robots as we have dreamt them? Are our brains unable to cope with mechanical doubles? Perhaps not. It may just be a temporary phenomenon. The positive response to recent androids shows that once the design and movements of robots become even more human-like, the affection graph rises again from the ‘uncanny valley’; acceptability returns steeply to normal.

We seem to be at ease with androids that have human bodies and human movements, even if we know they are not human. As we cross the ‘uncanny valley’ another basic instinct comes into play: empathy. It is possible to mix human and mechanical characteristics without getting trapped in ‘uncanny valley’. Eventually, human-like robots will make us love them, too.

IELTS General Reading Test

Reading Passage 3 has seven paragraphs, A-G.

Which paragraph contains the following information?

Write the correct letter, A-G, in boxes 27-30 on your answer sheet.

27. a belief that we may have strong, positive feelings for robots in the future

28. a description of how the human brain developed over time

29. a contrast between our reaction to various objects and our reaction to robots

30. an example of robots which people have a very negative reaction to

IELTS General Reading Test

Look at the following statements and the list of scientists below. Match each statement to the correct scientist, A-E. Write the correct letter, A-E, in boxes 31-33 on your answer sheet.

List of scientists

A. MacDorman

B. Professor Hiroshi lshiguro

C. Charles Darwin

D. Ayse Pinar Saygin

E. Masahiro Mori

IELTS General Reading Test

31. We feel disgusted when things don’t move as we think they will.

32. We feel visual disgust when animal faces appear similar to human faces

33. The causes of the ‘Uncanny Valley’ effect are not just biological.

IELTS General Reading Test

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each

34. The ‘uncanny valley’ concerns the relationship between how much a robot looks like a human and the amount of …………….……. people feel.

35. Scientists think that the development of …………….……. played an important part in the development of the modern mind.

36. The ‘uncanny valley’ reaction is also seen when people look at ………..……. which have been changed a little.

IELTS General Reading Test

Do the following statements agree with the views of the author in Reading Passage 3?

In boxes 37-40 on your answer sheet, write

YES if the statement agrees with the views of the author

NO if the statement contradicts the views of the author

NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the author thinks about this

37. It is surprising that people can have strong emotional feelings for objects.

38. The term ‘uncanny valley’ is very difficult for many people to understand.

39. The research in California adequately explains the ‘uncanny valley’ effect.

40. Researchers will probably learn to overcome the ‘uncanny valley’ effect.

IELTS General Reading Test


BEST IELTS General Reading Test 450

Get Latest IELTS Books

IELTS General Reading Test

27. G

28. E

29. A

30. B

31. D

32. C

33. A




37. YES


39. NO

40. YES

IELTS General Reading Test

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Best Hot Selling Books | Get Discount upto 20%

error: Content is protected !!
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x