This trope is an often complex puzzle, trap, or maze that a robot, android, or similarly synthetic but sentient or near-sentient being must navigate in order to be deemed "conscious" or self-aware.
The original Turing Test thought experiment was initially devised to see if a robot or similar non-human could pass as a person by its ability to, essentially, carry on a text chat conversation. However, recent anxiety about the Turing Test's inadequacy for determining true consciousness has resulted in the proliferation of storylines whereby engineers attempt to test their life-like creations for signs of real sapience—whatever that might be—with complex psychological games.
This is a subtrope of the Turing Test trope, which covers methods of determing the sapience of artificial intelligence in general.
- Legion of Super-Heroes: In issue #95 of Legion Of Super-Heroes, during the "postboot" Legion's extended stay in the 20th Century, the Legion crosses over with the Metal Men — by attacking them out of the blue to steal the responsometers that grant them sentience. Brainiac 5, who needs advanced technology to build a computer to control a Time Machine, continues to remind his teammates to ignore the objections of the Metal Men as just programming. However, when Platinum and Veridium (Dr. Magnus, who had undergone an Emergency Transformation at the time, along with a Relationship Upgrade with Platinum — we don't speak of it) sympathize with Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl's mid-battle relationship issues, Brainy immediately orders the Legionnaires to stand down. As he explains to both teams, Brainiac 5 recognized that the two Metal Men had both identified and empathized with the other couple — meaning that they were "living, feeling creatures" that "only a barbarian" would experiment on. (Not only do the Metal Men forgive him, Veridian actually volunteers for Brainy's experiment.)
- Ex Machina: Normally, a Turing test would be done blind with the tester interacting with both an artificial intelligence and a human, and the AI fails the test if the tester can tell which is which. In Ex Machina, the robot's creator asserts that his robot Ava is beyond this test and could pass it easily. Instead, he wants Ava to convince the tester that she is "human" even though he knows she's a robot.
- I, Robot: Sonny is interrogated and his sentience is assumed nonexistent, but, through a complex rescue plot, Sonny demonstrates his sentience via art and complex emotional communication and understanding.
- Blade Runner: Robots (and one female robot in particular) have their sentience questioned by the film's main character, and the other Blade Runners hunting them, using the "Voight-Kampff" test. This test requires the suspect to answer a series of emotionally provocative questions and scenarios while monitoring their involuntary responses. Ultimately, the movie's central struggle and reveal confirms the sentience of the robots once thought only partly human.
- The second movie features an updated version of the previous test, where Replicants are continuously berated with even more emotionally manipulative questions by an unseen interrogator in another room. In an odd inversion of the first movie's VK test, where it was used to determine whether humans were becoming too robotic (and thus Replicants in disguise) the Baseline Test is used to determine whether Replicants are becoming too humanly empathetic.
- In the first Short Circuit movie, Johnny 5's sentience (versus his non-struck-by-lightning brethren) is hotly debated, with the military who created him hell-bent on getting its "property" back and the heroes trying desperately to prove that he is "alive". Ultimately he is able to prove his sentience through an inkblot test (during which he not only identifies the chemical makeup of the blotting material but is able to recognize the blot's resemblance to other things) and displaying a sense of humor (telling a joke, in response to which he laughs once he gets the punchline).
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the inspiration for Blade Runner, also features the Voight-Kampff test, which is explicitly designed to detect empathy by measuring involuntary responses. Deckard is only able to identify Rachel as inhuman by noticing that she took a fraction of a second too long to be squicked when he claims his wallet was "pure baby-hide".
- Xanth features a metaphysical variant. A manticore travels to Good Magician Humphrey to ask whether or not it has a soul. Humphrey answers that if it didn't have one, it wouldn't be concerned with such things. The manticore is satisfied with this answer because a simple "Yes" or "No" might be a mere guess, whereas this explanation makes the answer self-evident.
- Westworld: Arnold creates the maze as a way of testing the consciousness of the hosts, specifically Dolores and Maeve, both of whom have to suffer through their own deaths and strive to overcome extreme adversity in order to prove (through their own suffering) that they are in fact sentient.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Quality of Life" a test is created for the exocomps to determine their sentience as follows: 1. Send an exocomp to complete a repair. 2. Simulate a systems failure that would result in damage to the exocomp if it was real. 3. If the exocomp ignores it and fulfills their programming, it's just a machine. If it abandons the job to save itself, it's alive. 4. Recall the exocomp and evaluate the results. The experiment fails (i.e. the exocomp keeps working and is "destroyed"), and is repeated 34 more times just in case. Then a distraction causes Step 4 to be delayed. This time the exocomp wasn't ordered to return, revealing the truth. The exocomp knew the failure was an illusion, so it finished the job and then turned off the alarm caused by the "failure." The exocomp is alive.
- The Talos Principle: Early on, the player character must take a questionnaire to prove he's "really human" in order to get full access on a computer system. This is just a feint, though, as the administration program is a Commander Contrarian that undercuts every argument with slightly circuitous logic, and ultimately suspends the qualifying criteria of being human in order to make a point about the pointlessness of the distinction. The player gradually becomes aware that the character is not a human, but an AI designed to become human-like through directed Mechanical Evolution. It eventually becomes apparent that the entire game world is one vast test to ensure the completion of this goal: the player character solves puzzles in order to prove logic and abstract thinking, but can only escape the simulation by willingly defying a direct command from an established authority, something a mere robot could never do.
- Stellaris: In Stellaris the flavor text for the Robotics: Citizen Right law states that all robotics who prove to be self aware are to be treated as living beings, hinting on the existence of such a test.
- The Turing Test: The Excuse Plot for the game is that the crew left on the Europa base wanted to keep the AI TOM from gaining entrance using a series of puzzle rooms requiring lateral thinking to complete. Since the player is acting as TOM, instead of the human protagonist, the puzzles are ultimately ineffective.
- Freefall: Florence once tested a couple of robots for sentience by asking them "What does your name smell like?" The non-sentient one simply concluded that names cannot have scents and ended the conversation; the sentient one reasoned that while he had no sense of smell, Florence did, and for all he knew names having scents is a thing among Bowman's Wolves, so therefore the only way to answer the question would be to ask her.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: When Princess Voluptua meets Roofus the Robot, she asks him if he's conscious. He says he doesn't know, and she takes this as proof that he is conscious, because a non-conscious machine designed to feign consciousness would just lie and say yes.