15 Sep

Anthropomorphism

So you think you’re in control?

The tendency to characterise animals, objects, and abstract concepts as possessing human-like traits, emotions, and intentions. In order to make sense of the world around us, we make comparisons of the things we see with memories of the things we have already encountered (i.e. that which we have learned).

As a large part of our early life memories are formed from encounters with other human beings, it would be reasonable to assume that the ‘schemas’ with which we work constitute human features – visual characteristics, such as faces, as well as movements. When we encounter an object that resembles something we’ve already experienced, so we can attribute human-like characteristics to it and respond to it in that frame of reference. These attributions are of our own making; we ‘see’ things that are not actually there.

Sometimes anthropomorphism can fulfil can emotional need, such as the need for belonging and company. Consider Tom Hanks in the film ‘Castaway’ and his Man Friday companion equivalent in the form of ‘Wilson’ the ball.

One way of countering this tendency is to consider how many ways the object is not like a human. See it for what it is.