The Uncanny Valley has been called upon to explain why Mitt Romney's persona disturbs so many people despite general agreement that he's a "successful, good-looking family man". Like Democrat Al Gore in previous races, Republican Mitt Romney creates a strange unease even among his supporters. A recent essay in the Atlantic provides an explanation for this phenomenon based on the Uncanny Valley theory that we are repulsed by slight imperfections in human-like action. The author argues that Romney's personality exhibits traits which put him into an "uncanny valley" for politicians.
"Most politicians tend to be ordinary-looking people who spend their time convincing voters they're office-quality material. Romney is rushing the other way: he's the politician from central casting who is stumbling through an audition for a role of regular human."
There were lots of jokes and comments about Al Gore being a "robot" in earlier races. But here we've got a more detailed attempt at explaining what makes people uncomfortable about this type of politician. This raises interesting questions: 1) is this just an amusing analogy or could there be any real psychology behind claims of a political uncanny valley? 2) does a reference to the uncanny valley by a political pundit mean even relatively obscure robotics and AI science is going mainstream? 3) if even some humans fall into the uncanny valley, is it more important that robots climb the other side or that we adjust our expectations of intelligent behavior?
Diagram based on Mori Uncanny Valley