Anthropomorphism is a word commonly used in the animal world. It is also known as personification. This is when human form or characteristics are giving to anything that is not a human being. The existence of anthropomorphism is very important for anyone working with animals to be aware of. We can get wrapped up in our own human emotions, that we assume other beings on the planet must feel the same way. Animals share a lot of characteristics with us, but behavioral science has proven time and time again that what we think we are seeing, isn’t necessarily what is going on.
Anthropomorphism will make you look at the following picture and come up with what story? Giraffe on the left looks really left out? It must be sad over there all on its own?Those two on the right are clearly in love? What a cute couple?
Let’s look closer at the Giraffe on the left. It does look pretty sad doesn’t it?
Actually it was very intent on licking the side of the door.
How about the two on the right? Is that what “love” looks like? Happy couple?
I can’t confirm the relationship between these two giraffes. I’m more convinced they are siblings or perhaps child and parent. That’s just speculation though. And if you look really closely, I’ve pulled a fast one on you. One of the giraffe’s from the right is in front of the “lonely” one on the left now.
Animal activists will twist this story and say the poor giraffe on the left is separated from all the other giraffes. Isn’t that sad?
Anthropomorphism is also what makes people visit the vet’s office with their dog and say, “I think my dog is mad at me for going on vacation. She’s peeing on all the rugs now. This was never a problem! She must have a grudge.” Meanwhile, tests have just shown the dog is suffering from a urinary tract infection. No grudge. Just sick. Problem solved.
Anthropomorphism isn’t always a bad thing though. Sometimes, because we have no other way of explaining things, we do need to put human characteristics to it. Animal behavior is complex, and sometimes by starting with a human theory, we dive deeper into the truth. That’s what is so exciting for me about working with animals and their minds.
© Semi Charmed Life
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