Have you ever attributed a human emotion to a stuffed animal or a pet? How about to a non-living entity, like the government, or to a natural phenomenon, like the wind? Anthropomorphism is the process by which we ascribe human emotions and motivations to inanimate objects, concepts, phenomena, or other species. 

Recent Posts on Anthropomorphism

Do We Project Our Own Personalities Onto Our Dogs' Behavior?

Dogs can be a sort of psychological mirror since people sometimes use their own personality tendencies to fill in the gaps when trying to interpret ambiguous dog behaviors.

A Landmark Case for the Legal Rights of Dogs?

Legal precedents establishing the rights of dogs under the law may have been set when, for the first time, a dog charged with murdering a cat was tried in front of a judge and jury.

Iconoclastic Puritans

Why images of the gods are often targets of religious zealots and why religious zealots will never run out of images to target.

Study: Dogs Can Identify Liars, and They Don't Trust Them

By Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. on February 24, 2015 in Canine Corner
Dogs keep track of whether people lie or tell the truth, and they use these memories to determine whether they can trust particular humans and any new information that they get from them.

Can Dogs Recognize Emotions Just by Looking at a Human Face?

By Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. on February 17, 2015 in Canine Corner
New data shows that dogs need only a glimpse of your mouth or your eyes to determine whether you are happy or angry.

Toy Stories

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on July 18, 2014 in In Excess
Plushophilia is a “sexual attraction to stuffed toys or people in animal costume, such as theme park characters.” It is often assumed to be a common practice among members of the Furry Fandom. However, survey research has shown this not to be the case. But what else is known about the psychology of plushophiia?

All Paths Lead to Magical Thinking

By Matthew Hutson on September 17, 2013 in Psyched!
In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting from simple errors in reasoning. What has not been clarified is exactly how the various cognitive biases interact to produce specific ideas about the supernatural—until now.

Animal Instincts

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on September 09, 2013 in In Excess
The 'furry fandom' comprises individuals who like to dress up as animals (some of who also like to have sex dressed as animals). Despite the existence of the furry fandom community being around for over the years, there has been little psychological research on such people. This blog takes a peak inside the world of the furries.

Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?

Dogs have the same emotions as a human 2 year-old child

Should We View Animals As Humanlike?

By Jim Davies Ph.D. on February 13, 2013 in The Science of Imagination
People will often attribute minds and mental states to things that aren't people. It seems silly to believe that storms actually are angry, but what about when we attribute something like jealousy to a dog?

Can We Communicate with Dogs Using Photos and Replicas?

Dogs understand that replicas and photos can be symbols for real objects.

Dogs Recognize Generous Versus Selfish People

When watching human social exchanges dogs seem to learn who is generous and who is selfish and the dogs appear to expect that they will be treated the same way as humans in similar interactions.

What's a Predator to Prey?

By Mark Derr on June 25, 2012 in Dog's Best Friend
There's no hunting for this meal. Brown bears and wolves share a humpback whale that washed ashore in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Photo: National Park Service

Do Pets Go To Heaven?

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on May 30, 2012 in Animals and Us
What happens to animals when they die? We recently asked people which species they thought went to Heaven. The results were surprising....

Teddy Bears Make You Friendlier—and Maybe Healthier

By Matthew Hutson on April 25, 2012 in Psyched!
I slept with a Beanie Baby for eight years—from the ages of 18 to 26. Thanks to new research, I can now look back and say it was probably good for me.

The Politics of Pet Dogs and Kennel Crates

A campaign suggesting that the use of kennel crates for dogs is "animal abuse" is not supported by scientific evidence. Rather it appears to be a deliberate publicity strategy used by organizations that are against keeping pets as companions.

Spooked by Shakespeare

By Matthew Hutson on January 09, 2012 in Psyched!
A short piece by Tad Friend in the January 9 New Yorker demonstrates no fewer than three forms of magical thinking in one column of text. The subject: John Logan, a playwright and screenwriter (recently: Hugo, Rango, Coriolanus). The scene: Bauman Rare Books on Madison Avenue.

Is Anthropomorphism a Sin?

By Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. on November 21, 2011 in Canine Corner
Thinking about dogs as if they have emotions, personality and consciousness, like humans do, is discouraged by many scientists who refer to this as anthropomorphism. Yet research suggests that this may be a useful way of looking at canine behavior.

Sexism or Anthropomorphism (With Sexism Mixed in)?

Researchers on antagonistic sexual relations among non-human animals use gender stereotypes. Which is worse: the sexism-- or the anthropomorphism?

Greetings!

Cats the world over perform the “tail-up” signal, in which they raise their tails to the vertical when approaching other animals, and especially humans. For years this has been called a “greeting” signal – because it usually happens at the beginning of an interaction. But is this label any more than a convenient anthropomorphism?

Fuzzy Personhood

By Adam Waytz Ph.D. on May 10, 2010 in Other Minds
The natural sciences have recently demonstrated that chimpanzees grieve for the loss of loved ones, that plants that are capable of recognizing their siblings, and that Poplar trees can feel stressed out. These remarkable findings imply that the world all around us is becoming more human.

Does Sex Sell Even If You Are Advertising Dog Products?

A new set of advertisements demonstrates just how much our image of our pet dogs has moved toward the point of view where dogs are regarded as simply four-footed humans in fur coats. 

Feeling the life inside an orangutan

By Shawn Thompson on May 03, 2010 in The Intimate Ape
I saw a small miracle happen in Taipei today.For the last 10 days since her second infant was born in the Taipei zoo in Taiwan, the orangutan Nu-nu has refused to let anybody see her feeding her child. The zoo staff don't even know the sex of the infant and so have not named it. 

Living Alone? Can Canine Companionship Help Beat Loneliness?

By Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. on February 05, 2010 in Don't Delay
Our research just published in the journal Anthrozoös revealed that among pet owners with low levels of human social support, high attachment to pets predicted significantly higher scores on loneliness and depression. These findings highlight the complex nature of the relationship between pet ownership and psychological health.

A Question of Guilt

Does your dog feel guilty when he's spilled out the innards of the trash can?

Anthropomorphic Double-Talk: Can Animals Be Happy But Not Unhappy? No!

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on June 24, 2009 in Animal Emotions
Over the years I’ve noticed a curious phenomena. If a scientist says that an animal is happy, no one questions it, but if a scientist says that an animal is unhappy, then charges of anthropomorphism are immediately raised. This "anthropomorphic double-talk" seems mostly aimed at letting humans feel better about themselves. It is very misleading.