Animal Studies Bibliography
Lockwood, Randall. 1989. Anthropomorphism is not a four-letter word. In R. J. Hoage (Ed.), Perceptions of Animals in American Culture (pp. 41-56). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Early natural scientists and biologists, including Darwin, used anthropomorphic accounts and anecdotes widely. Many of these accounts were wrong, and their nature kept animal behavior from being a hard science like physics. Darwin's use of anthropomorphism was based on a belief in continuity of life and mental experience, but other scientists of his time aimed to join the hard sciences and therefore rejected such approaches. Morgan's Canon was the guiding statement of this new emphasis, which required that lower animals' actions no longer be interpreted by mind or human-like traits. Animal behavior should instead be explained by such things as instinct and reflex as exemplified by scientists like Pavlov and other Behaviorists. The problem with this change is that it keeps scientists from even asking whether animals have feelings, minds, etc., rather than allowing scientific methods to disprove such hypotheses if they are wrong. Much study of animals, as a result, has been very measurable but of trivial behaviors. In the 1940s and 1950s, European ethologists began to add anthropomorphic discussions and consideration of animals' minds to their work. This addition ironically led to zoomorphism and sociobiology, applying animal behavior to human life. The meaning of anthropomorphism has varied. There are 5 types. First, allegorical anthropomorphism is a way to make a story or message more hidden or more palatable, as with fables, Watership Down , or Animal Farm . Such anthropomorphism poses no threat because the animals' behavior is not meant to be biologically accurate. Second, personification is most similar to what most people consider anthropomorphism. It involves such practices as owners dressing their pets and other actions that are done for the benefit of the owner, not because of any biological need of the pet, an action which may be harmful to the animal. Third, superficial anthropomorphism is when we interpret animal behavior as similar to human behavior based on surface appearances, predictions that are often wrong (e.g. seeing a chimpanzee face as a smile when it is in fact a fear grimace). Fourth, in explanatory anthropomorphism we interpret animal behavior circularly, believing we have explained the behavior by naming it (e.g. we say a dog has messed up the garbage out of spite for its owner leaving, but we only believe this because the action seemed spiteful to us). All of these types are bad science because they are not based on animals' real natures or because they do not try to verify the explanations. The fifth type, applied anthropomorphism, however, may be of great benefit to science. It is the use of personal experience to try to figure out what it might be like to be a member of another species. This projection can produce testable hypotheses. In doing this, we must remember that the projection is just a hypothesis. Further, we must be sure that the situations are analogous and that we make sure to understand the context of the behavior we are trying to explain. An applied anthropomorphism has been useful in advancing animal learning theories that contradict Behaviorist lessons, animal communication understood not as reflex but as actual communication and intentions, comparative psychopathology (findings that human emotions, etc. can be produced in primates, and perhaps vice versa), attention to pet owners and farmers as sources of knowledge about animal behavior, applied ethology to generate improvements in animals' lives (e.g. decreasing animal boredom in zoos), and determining ways to reduce animals' pain and suffering. Anthropomorphism is gaining acceptance as a useful scientific tool.