ANTHROMOPORPH ANTHROPOPORPH ANTHROPOWHAT?
Coming home one night, you see your place trashed: pillows strewn on the floor, couch soiled, books shredded. You look at your furry companion and see guilt in his face.
But can Brownie feel guilty?
Assuming Brownie feels guilty is an example of anthropomorphism. Arguably, Brownie may understand he
did something wrong, but not necessarily with the moral weight that humans do. It is very unlikely for Brownie to feel bad he soiled your couch for the nth time because you will have to clean up his mess.
Based on a 2009 study for the scientific journal Behavioural Processes written by Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, a dog cognition scientist, Brownie
has that look on his face as a response to your reaction upon seeing his mess. What he has on his face is fear. One of the reasons we conclude it’s guilt is because that’s what a human would’ve felt.
In this way, anthropomorphism can be good. In some cases, however, it can threaten an entire species’ existence.