Anthopomorphism and De-humanization

castaway533It seems that rats really made us think this week.  As Megan says, go team rat!  I’m looking forward to a good careful discussion today of the paradox that many of you noted in your posts – namely that we seem to project the worst parts of human “nature” onto our images of rats in order to deny them consideration and validate their destruction, at the same time we embrace their suitability as research subjects due to their similarities to humans.  I was thinking about your posts this morning as I read this fascinating piece about (human!) empathy and our penchant for dehumanization.  It turns out that animal behavior tells us a lot about ourselves. We often criticize non-scientific explanations of animal behavior as “anthropomorphic,” and yet it seems that attributing human-like qualities to non-human entities (such as Wilson the volleyball) or the geometric shapes in the puzzle (see video in the article) is just something we like to do.  The stunning twist (for me at least) is not our penchant for anthropomorphism, but the ease with which we de-humanize people and attenuate the empathy we instinctively feel for non-human animals.

For more on my thoughts about rats, click here.

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