Animal Scene - - ADVOCATE -

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.

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