Survival of the Prettiest Part 3: The Uncanny Valley
One of the biggest concerns that I have from prospective patients is that they not look weird, the fear stemming from seeing unnatural celebrities that are frightening to them in magazines and on television. The question I get all the time is “If celebrity X has all the money in the world, how can she look so bad?” Great question. I think the answer is that the celebrity went to a physician who lacks artistic taste and therefore is incapable of seeing that his work is ugly.
In Nancy Etcoff’s book, Survival of the Prettiest, she talks about something called the “Uncanny Valley”. On one side of the valley, we have normal-looking human beings that obviously do not garner any negative physical reaction from the average human viewer. On the opposite side of the valley, we have things that do not look human at all like a robot, which also typically does not engender any negative sentiment. In between, we have an “uncanny valley” in which we have quasi-looking humans that can create revulsion, fear, and dread in us. That is why bad plastic surgery can elicit so many bad stares even though one may not be able to pinpoint exactly what is so “uncanny” about the person. It is important as always when I see an individual that even when that person comes in for something else that I help him or her determine what would be the best procedure because sometimes one may not know one is already in the uncanny valley and certainly one should not be requesting a procedure that will land one in that dreadful valley.
Sam M. Lam, MD, FACS is a board certified plastic surgeon in Dallas, Texas. To schedule a consultation please call (972) 312-8188. To Learn more about Dr Lams’plastic surgery procedures visit lamfacialplastics.com/procedures or to ask Dr Lam a question please visit his plastic surgery forum here.