There is something interesting that often takes place when you have a pet in your house. Most people who have animals recognize that they become a member of the family and sometimes, we tend to be with them more than we are with the human members of the family. When we find that we are home alone with our dog or cat, we may also catch ourselves talking to them as if they were normal human beings. Some of those conversations can actually be in depth and although they may be one-sided, they can be comforting.
Are you somebody that talks to your pet as if they are a close friend? It really doesn’t matter if it is a dog, cat, rabbit or even your pet hamster, those conversations seem to take place naturally. You probably have also heard other people give you a hard time about doing it, asking if you actually expect the animal to answer you? Of course we don’t, but that doesn’t keep us from looking just a little bit strange by our behavior.
Even though this happens with many people, you may wonder if you are the only one who does it. You might also wonder why you prefer the company of an animal more than humans in some cases. Are you really losing it?
You would be happy to know that talking to anything other than a human, regardless of whether it is an animal, vegetable or mineral is a sign of intelligence rather than a lack of intelligence. It doesn’t mean that you are turning into the crazy cat lady, you just may have a high IQ. The act itself is known as anthropomorphizing, which is basically giving human traits, emotions or intentions to anything that is nonhuman.
A behavioral scientist professor at the University of Chicago, Nicholas Epley, had the following to say: “Anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet.”
When you are able to perceive anything that is nonhuman as if it were human, it is a process that is known as anthropomorphism. When children do it, many adults feel that it is a cute type of behavior but if an adult does it, they are typically seen as being strange. Experts in anthropomorphism feel that seeing a human trait in anything that is not human is not weird, it is a sign of intelligence.
In 2011, a study was conducted in Harvard that involved a group of people who were shown various pictures. Those pictures included both baby animals and adult animals and most of the people who were shown baby animal pictures said that they would give them human names. They also tended to refer to them using gender terms, such as ‘he’ or ‘she’.
But wait, there’s more. If those same people had the opportunity to own a baby animal, they would give them a name and talk to them, just like they would talk to a human. No other living creature other than a human has that ability to give inanimate objects a perceived type of human behavior.
The most popular form of anthropomorphizing is naming pets or inanimate objects but it is not the only way it may exist. You may also produce character traits in your pets, and this would also be a form of anthropomorphism. For example, you may refer to your cat as a grumpy old man or your dog as your ‘baby’. It may seem weird to an outsider but it is actually a sign of intelligence.
The human brain is infinitely complex and scientists do not fully understand its limits. After years of scientific studies on the brain, we still are only scratching the surface when it comes to understanding what it is capable of doing. Being able to identify any human characteristics in inanimate objects, be it pets, stuffed animals or even our car is a type of creativity that is displayed by the brain.
Anthropomorphism does have an effect on humans but it can also affect any animals in your home. According to some studies, continuously talking to your dog allows them to learn certain words and gestures. Animals who have been exposed to it for years continue to learn in this way.
When we talk to our dog, they tend to understand the emotions tied to our words. Cats may not understand the words as such but dogs do and they can recognize both verbal commands and the feelings behind our voice. Cats may use over 16 different ways to communicate and even though they may hear you, they may not necessarily react to what you were saying.
On a basic level, there may be 3 reasons why humans tend to anthropomorphize an object. It may appear as if it has a face, we can’t explain the behavior it shows and we are curious or we want to be friends with it. By understanding each of those different triggers, we can understand why this tendency is essential to both our intelligence and our survival.
When we see an object with eyes, our brain automatically wants to perceive it as a human. If you were to put toy eyes on your stove, you may want to give it a name or perhaps you might even talk to it. This is not a type of psychotic behavior, it is science. Humans are social animals and we want to be friends with other animals by nature.
To break it all down on a very basic level, it is perfectly natural to try to talk to our pets. It doesn’t make you crazy and it may just make you more intelligent than those whose brains do not allow them to do the same thing.
So, the next time you are having a conversation with your pet and somebody calls you strange, simply smile to yourself and realize that you are a superior being.