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Anthropology Pets Psychology Research

Anthropomorphism: are we guilty?

Are we guilty of anthropomorphism in dogs? As dog owners it’s very easy to humanise our pets.

Julie Hecht, MSc, is a researcher and science writer fascinated not just by animal behaviour and welfare, but how we think about animals and the consequences of those thoughts.

Take anthropomorphism (attributing human characteristics to animals or objects) as a key example.

In this episode of Human Animal Science we explore what actually happens when we think that dog is guilty; or that cat is grumpy.

We discuss why we anthropomorphise and how it impacts on the animals.

Podcast

What is anthropomorphism in dogs?

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities.

In dogs, it can manifest as attributing emotions such as love, loyalty, and happiness to dogs, or expecting dogs to understand and communicate with us in ways that they do not. At least not in the same ways we do.

Do dogs know the difference between humans and dogs?

Dogs are intelligent creatures who are capable of complex social interaction, which means they’re able to pick up on our cues and learn from us.

However, studies show dogs actually see us as a member of their pack, not a separate species.

This means dogs do not necessarily know the difference between humans and dogs, but are capable of forming attachments to both.

Links

Dog Spies: www.dogspies.com  |  Dog Spies Blog on Scientific American

Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab (Barnard College, Columbia University, New York)

The Bark magazine

Do You Believe in Dog?

Publications

Hecht, Miklosi, & Gacsi (2012) Behavioral assessment and owner perceptions of behaviors associated with guilt in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 139. 134-142.

Do dogs feel guilty? Jason Goldman | Scientific American

Hecht & Horowitz (2012) Physical prompts to anthropomorphism of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) Third Canine Science Forum, Barcelona, Spain. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8, e30.

Horowitz (2009) Disambiguating the “guilty look”: Salient prompts to a familiar dog behavior. Behavioural Processes, 81, 447-452.

Horowitz (2007) Naturalizing anthropomorphism: Behavioral prompts to our humanizing of animals. Anthrozoös, 20, 23-35.

Image credit: Flickr/Brainware3000

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