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People conceive of wrathful gods, fickle computers, and selfish genes, attributing human characteristics to a variety of supernatural, technological, and biological agents. This tendency to anthropomorphize nonhuman agents figures prominently in domains ranging from religion to marketing to computer science. Perceiving an agent to be humanlike has important implications for whether the agent is capable of social influence, accountable for its actions, and worthy of moral care and consideration. Three primary factors—elicited agent knowledge, sociality motivation, and effectance motivation—appear to account for a significant amount of variability in anthropomorphism. Identifying these factors that lead people to see nonhuman agents as humanlike also sheds light on the inverse process of dehumanization, whereby people treat human agents as animals or objects. Understanding anthropomorphism can contribute to a more expansive view of social cognition that applies social psychological theory to a wide variety of both human and nonhuman agents.
RUNNING HEAD: Social Cognition Unbound
Social Cognition Unbound: Insights into Anthropomorphism and Dehumanization
Adam Waytz
, Nicholas Epley
, John T. Cacioppo
Harvard University
University of Chicago
Corresponding author:
Adam Waytz
Department of Psychology
Harvard University
Northwest Science Building
52 Oxford St
Cambridge, MA 02138
Social Cognition Unbound, 2
People conceive of wrathful gods, fickle computers, and selfish genes, attributing
human characteristics to a variety of supernatural, technological, and biological agents.
This tendency to anthropomorphize nonhuman agents figures prominently in domains
ranging from religion to marketing to computer science. Perceiving an agent to be
humanlike has important implications for whether the agent is capable of social
influence, accountable for its actions, and worthy of moral care and consideration. Three
primary factors—elicited agent knowledge, sociality motivation, and effectance
motivation—appear to account for a significant amount of variability in
anthropomorphism. Identifying these factors that lead people to see nonhuman agents as
humanlike also sheds light on the inverse process of dehumanization, whereby people
treat human agents as animals or objects. Understanding anthropomorphism can
contribute to a more expansive view of social cognition that applies social psychological
theory to a wide variety of both human and nonhuman agents.
Keywords: anthropomorphism, dehumanization, mind perception, social cognition,
person perception
Social Cognition Unbound, 3
Ask your favorite demographer to tell you something about human population
expansion over the course of history and they will probably show you a graph of
exponential growth that appears likely—any moment now—to overwhelm the planet.
Look around. People seem to be everywhere. But look harder and you will notice even
more humanlike agents in the environment, from pets that can seem considerate and
caring, to gods that have goals and plans for one’s life, to computers than can seem to
have minds of their own. People show an impressive capacity to create humanlike
agents—a kind of inferential reproduction—out of those that are clearly nonhuman.
People ask invisible gods for forgiveness, talk to their plants, kiss dice to persuade a
profitable roll, name their cars, curse at unresponsive computers, outfit their dogs with
unnecessary sweaters, and consider financial markets to be “anxious” at one moment and
“delirious” the next. This process of anthropomorphism is a critical determinant of how
people understand and treat nonhuman agents from gods to gadgets to the stock market,
is central to multibillion dollar industries such as robotics and pet care, and features
prominently in public debates ranging from the treatment of Mother Earth to abortion
We suggest unbinding research on social cognition from its historic focus on how
people understand other people. Studying how people understand other agents—whether
human or not—dramatically broadens the scope of psychological theory and investigation
to address when people attribute humanlike capacities to other agents and when they do
Why Anthropomorphism Matters
Social Cognition Unbound, 4
Anthropomorphism goes beyond providing purely behavioral or dispositional
descriptions of observable actions (such as noting that a coyote is fast or aggressive); it
involves attributing characteristics that people intuitively perceive to be uniquely human
to nonhuman agents or events. Some people reported, for instance, seeing not only the
face of the devil in the smoke from the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center
but the evil intentions and goals of the devil behind the attacks as well.
Anthropomorphism therefore includes both physical features, such as perceiving a
religious agent in a humanlike form, and mental capacities that people believe are
uniquely human, such as the capacity to have conscious awareness, possess explicit
intentions, or experience secondary emotions (e.g., joy, pride, shame, guilt). The inverse
process of anthropomorphism is dehumanization, whereby people fail to attribute
humanlike capacities to other humans and treat them like nonhuman animals or objects.
The Khmer Rouge, for instance, described their victims as “worms,” Nazi propaganda
depicted Jews as vermin, and Rwandan Hutus described the Tutsi as “cockroaches.”
The Greek philosopher Xenophanes was the first to use the term
anthropomorphism when describing the striking similarity between religious believers
and their gods, with Greek gods having fair skin and blue eyes and African gods having
dark skin and brown eyes. Psychologists 27 centuries later are only now beginning to
study such anthropomorphisms seriously, illuminating phenomena ranging from religious
belief to animal domestication to artificial intelligence as well as the inverse process of
dehumanization. Neuroscience demonstrates that similar brain regions are involved when
reasoning about the behavior of both human and nonhuman agents (Gazzola, Rizzolatti,
Wicker, & Keysers, 2007), suggesting that anthropomorphism is guided by the same
Social Cognition Unbound, 5
processes involved when thinking about other people. Cognitive and developmental
psychology have examined both the pervasiveness and the limits of using the base
concept “human” to reason about nonhuman stimuli such as biological kinds (Waxman &
Medin, 2007) and religious agents (Barrett & Keil, 1996; Guthrie, 1993; Shtulman,
2008). And social psychology has examined the ways in which people are likely both to
humanize nonhuman agents and to dehumanize out-group members or particular
stereotyped groups.
This relatively recent surge of interest in anthropomorphism is driven by an
appreciation of its wide-ranging implications and behavioral consequences. For instance,
anthropomorphized agents become responsible for their own actions and therefore
deserving of blame and praise, punishment and reward (Gray, Gray, & Wegner, 2007).
When a bell in Mexico City’s famous Cathedral, Catedral Metropolitana, struck and
killed a bell ringer, for example, the congregation punished the bell, tying it down for 50
years. Agents that are capable of judgment, intention, and feeling are also capable of
directing their judgment, intentions, and feelings toward us, and therefore become agents
of social influence. Thinking about a judgmental God tends to increase prosocial
behavior towards others (Norenzayan & Shariff, 2008), and questionnaires presented on
computers with humanlike faces increase socially desirable responding (Sproull,
Subramani, Kiesler, Walker, & Waters, 1996).
Perhaps the most important implication of anthropomorphism is that perceiving
an agent to be human renders it worthy of moral care and consideration (Gray et al.,
2007). Recent environmental legislation in Ecuador, Switzerland, and the state of
Pennsylvania, for example, has granted legal rights to natural entities such as plants and
Social Cognition Unbound, 6
rivers based on anthropomorphic inferences that these stimuli possess internal experience
and can feel pain and pleasure. It is no accident, we assume, that environmental activists
frequently speak of “Mother Earth” when trying to encourage more environmentally
responsible behavior. Anthropomorphizing an agent not only leads people to represent it
as humanlike but to treat it as humanlike as well.
Explaining Variability
Psychological research on anthropomorphism has developed slowly because it has
long focused on the accuracy of anthropomorphic inferences. But whether a pet, a god, or
a computer really possesses anthropomorphic traits is orthogonal to the psychological
processes leading people to make such inferences in some circumstances and not in
others. A psychological theory of anthropomorphism should instead explain and predict
variability in this process. A recent theory we have developed identifies three primary
determinants—one cognitive and two motivational—to explain important aspects of
situational, developmental, cultural, and dispositional sources of variability in
anthropomorphism (Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007).
This theory recognizes anthropomorphism as a basic process of inductive
inference. The primary cognitive determinant of anthropomorphism is therefore the
extent to which knowledge of humans (or the self in particular) is elicited or activated.
Anthropomorphism involves using existing knowledge about the self or the concept
“human” to make an inference about a relatively unknown nonhuman agent, and factors
that increase the accessibility and applicability of this knowledge therefore increase
anthropomorphism. For instance, the more similar an agent is to a human in either its
Social Cognition Unbound, 7
movements or its physical appearance, the more likely it is to be anthropomorphized
(e.g., Morewedge, Preston, & Wegner, 2007).
Two motivational states can also increase the extent to which people either seek
humanlike agency or use themselves or the concept “human” as an inductive base when
reasoning about other agents. The first is the basic motivation for social connection.
Lacking social connection with other humans may lead people to seek connections with
other agents and, in so doing, create humanlike agents of social support. In one extreme
case, a British woman named Emma, living a solitary existence and fearing rejection
from other people, fell in love with a hi-fi system that she named Jake. Others have taken
to “marrying” objects of anthropomorphized affection such as the Eiffel Tower or the
Berlin Wall. In less extreme cases, those who are chronically lonely are more likely than
those who are chronically connected to anthropomorphize technological gadgets, and
experimentally inducing loneliness increases the tendency to anthropomorphize one’s pet
and to believe in commonly anthropomorphized religious agents (such as God or angels;
Epley, Akalis, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2008). It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that a
considerable market has developed for robots that can create a sense of social connection,
including uncanny androids that simulate a human hug and Paro, a personalized robotic
seal that costs upwards of $4,700.
The second motivational factor that may increase anthropomorphism is
effectance—the basic motivation to be a competent social agent. Lacking certainty,
predictability, or control leads people to seek a sense of mastery and understanding over
their environments. Given the overwhelming number of biological, technological, and
supernatural agents that people encounter on a daily basis, one way to attain some
Social Cognition Unbound, 8
understanding of these often-incomprehensible agents is to use a very familiar concept
(that of the self or other humans) to make these agents and events more comprehensible.
Increasing effectance motivation, either measured as an individual difference in
the desire for control or experimentally increasing the sense of unpredictability, therefore
also increases people’s tendency to anthropomorphize robots, gadgets, and nonhuman
animals (Waytz et al., 2009). This strategy seems to be somewhat effective—in one
study, those instructed to provide anthropomorphic descriptions of various stimuli (e.g. a
dog, a robot, an alarm clock, a set of shapes) reported that those stimuli seemed more
predictable and understandable than did those who were instructed to provide
nonanthropomorphic descriptions of the same stimuli (Waytz, et al., 2009). Indeed, the
World Meteorological Organization notes that the naming of hurricanes and storms—a
practice that originated with the names of saints, sailors’ girlfriends, and disliked political
figures—simplifies and facilitates effective communication to enhance public
preparedness, media reporting, and the efficient exchange of information.
Dehumanization: A Theoretical Inversion
Anthropomorphism is the process of representing nonhuman agents as humanlike,
whereas dehumanization appears to be the inverse process. Dehumanization entails
representing human agents as nonhuman objects or animals and hence denying them
human-essential capacities such as thought and emotion. Inverting a theory of
anthropomorphism may therefore provide insights into dehumanization. For instance, just
as increased similarity to the self or humans increases the tendency to anthropomorphize
a nonhuman agent, so too does decreased similarity increase the tendency to dehumanize
other people. Consistent with this prediction, socially distant out-groups are frequently
Social Cognition Unbound, 9
dehumanized, and those that are seen as the most dissimilar, such as drug addicts and
homeless people, are also the most likely to be dehumanized (e.g. Harris & Fiske, 2006).
Countless examples of interethnic dehumanization, from discrimination against Gypsies
across Europe to enslavement of African Americans in early America, may stem in part
from perceptions of the minority group as fundamentally dissimilar to the self or to one’s
own group.
Sociality appears to have a similarly inverse effect on anthropomorphism and
dehumanization. Lonely people seek other humans just as hungry people seek food. A
person who feels socially connected may therefore lack the motivation to actively seek
out humanlike agents for social connection. If feeling isolated increases the tendency to
anthropomorphize nonhuman agents, then feeling socially connected may likewise
increase the tendency to dehumanize other people—that is, to fail to attribute basic
features of personhood to other people. Consistent with this prediction, participants in
one experiment who were experimentally induced to feel socially connected were more
likely to deny humanlike mental states to others and to endorse dehumanizing violence
(Waytz & Epley, 2009). Historical examples of dehumanization, such as ongoing
violence between the Palestinians and Israelis, the Nazis’ persecution of Jews during the
Holocaust, and torture at Abu-Ghraib prison in Iraq, also suggest that perpetrators of
dehumanization are often members of a socially cohesive in-group acting against an out-
group. Social connection may have many benefits for a person’s own health and well-
being but may have unfortunate consequences for intergroup relations by enabling
Social Cognition Unbound, 10
Finally, effectance motivation should exhibit a similarly inverse relationship such
that decreasing the need to interact effectively with others should increase
dehumanization. One major factor that increases independence and decreases the need for
effective interaction with other people is having power over others. One recent set of
experiments demonstrated that being in a position of power increased the tendency to
objectify subordinates, treating them as a means to one’s own end rather than focusing on
their essentially human qualities (Gruenfeld, Inesi, Magee, & Galinsky, 2008). Gender
differences in power also contribute to female objectification in domains ranging from
pornography (that emphasizes women’s physical, not mental, attributes) to the practice of
dowry exchange (that determines a bride’s “worth” in property terms) in particularly
patriarchal societies.
Together, these findings suggest a potentially shared process of humanization that
operates regardless of whether the target of judgment is a human or nonhuman agent.
Recognizing this continuity across targets may help to bring together research literatures
that have historically been studied in isolation.
Moral Consequences
Humanness is not a binary quality but a continuum. For many agents, their
placement on this continuum is both ambiguous and critical for determining their moral
standing. For example, in some states in America, controversial legislation requires that a
woman view the ultrasound image of her fetus before being able to have an abortion. This
law has provoked criticism that the mere presentation of this image humanizes the fetus,
consequently biasing women against an abortion (Sanger, 2008). By similar logic, a
recent study showed that subtle humanization of medical patients appears to improve care
Social Cognition Unbound, 11
for these patients. Radiologists evaluating X-rays reported more details to patients and
expressed more empathy when a photo of the patient’s face accompanied the X-rays
(Turner & Hadas-Halpern, 2008). One doctor praised the study’s importance because
advances in technology have dehumanized the patient and this simple addition of a
photograph appears to counteract that dehumanization.
Whereas humanizing an agent increases that agent’s moral worth, dehumanizing
others licenses wrongdoing toward them. Research has demonstrated that dehumanization
facilitates aggression, endorsement of violence toward an out-group, and justification for
past wrongdoing (see Haslam, 2006, for review). Recently, an effort to revitalize New
Delhi, India by bulldozing its slums left countless people homeless, inspiring one victim
to say, “It's like we were picked up and thrown away” (Sidner, 2009). Dehumanization
has no doubt contributed to numerous acts of violence and aggression throughout history
as well as to more mundane everyday wrongdoings, such as making a sexist remark or
ignoring a homeless person on the sidewalk. The consequences of being perceived as
nonhuman are serious, and the same rights conferred to animals, plants, or rivers through
anthropomorphism can be denied to people.
In the 2008 California state election, citizens voted to pass Proposition 2, which
required farm animals to be kept in less restricting confines, and also Proposition 8,
which denied to homosexual couples marriage privileges that had already been granted
within the state. This vote to simultaneously treat farm animals more humanely but
homosexual couples less humanely is an example of the ways in which both
anthropomorphism and dehumanization may affect everyday life in both practical and
Social Cognition Unbound, 12
important ways. Proponents of Proposition 8 invoked the humanlike “will of God” as a
justification for denying marriage rights to homosexuals, even suggesting that allowing
homosexuals to marry might open the door for humans to marry robots. Opponents of
Proposition 8 noted that banning homosexual marriage was as absurd as prohibiting
interracial marriage (still illegal until 1967 in some states), itself a clear example of the
long history of dehumanization toward non-Whites.
The emerging research on anthropomorphism and dehumanization provides a
theoretical account of these underlying processes, addresses the basic ways in which
people are likely to represent others in terms of basic human capacities and rights, and
documents the important consequences that result from this representation. Few social
perceivers have difficulty identifying other humans in a biological sense, but it is much
more complicated to identify them in a psychological sense.
Social Cognition Unbound, 13
Address correspondence to Adam Waytz, Harvard University, Northwest Science
Building, 52 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail:,, or
Recommended Reading
Epley, N., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2007). (See References). An article describing
the most recent psychological theory of anthropomorphism’s primary
Goff, P.A., Eberhardt, J.L., Williams, M., & Jackson, M.C. (2008). Not yet human:
Implicit knowledge, historical dehumanization, and contemporary consequences.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 292
306. A paper providing a
clear example of dehumanization in an interracial context that uses both archival
and empirical data.
Guthrie, S. (1993). (See References). A comprehensive review of anthropomorphism-
related phenomena that uses anthropomorphism to explain religion.
Haslam, N. (2006). (See References). The most recent psychological treatment of
dehumanization, identifying two essential modes of dehumanization.
Kwan, V.S.Y., & Fiske, S.T. (2008). Missing links in social cognition: The continuum
from nonhuman agents to dehumanized humans. Social Cognition, 26, 125–128.
An overview to a special issue of the journal, Social Cognition, devoted to
anthropomorphism and dehumanization.
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Norenzayan, A., & Shariff, A.F. (2008). The origin and evolution of religious
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(2009). Making sense by making sentient: Unpredictability increases
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... Anthropomorphism of nature therefore corresponds to the extent that human-like qualities are applied to nature ( Tam, 2014 ). This can include the attribution of human-like mental capacities including emotion, cognition, and intentionality ( Waytz et al., 2010 ;Tam, 2014 ). When nature is anthropomorphised, nature is therefore perceived to require similar moral consideration as other humans ( Gray et al., 2007 ;Waytz et al., 2010 ). ...
... This can include the attribution of human-like mental capacities including emotion, cognition, and intentionality ( Waytz et al., 2010 ;Tam, 2014 ). When nature is anthropomorphised, nature is therefore perceived to require similar moral consideration as other humans ( Gray et al., 2007 ;Waytz et al., 2010 ). As such, anthropomorphism of nature predicts pro-environmental actions (e.g., Ketron & Natetelich, 2019 ;Cooremans & Geuens, 2019 ;Tam et al., 2013 ), and this may be due to an expression of this care and concern, or perhaps out of fear of retaliation by an angry or vengeful nature. ...
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One of the psychological effects of digitalization is the establishment of specific relationships between a person and the cyber environment and its components. The paper presents the results of a study of the emotional component of attitudes towards the components of the digital environment, carried out using emotive-predicate analysis, a new method of computer text processing implemented in TITANIS, an advanced social media text analysis tool. Using this method, it is possible to automatically extract descriptions of emotional situations from texts in which the components of the digital environment are the cause or subject of 68 emotional states. The texts of 2048 online videos posted in the Russian-language segment of YouTube served as the material for the analysis. According to the frequency of occurrence, emotional situations involving various components of the digital environment are quite typical for even thematically irrelevant online discussions. The components of the digital environment mentioned in non-thematic discussions as participants in emotional situations are classified into the following three groups: (1) general concepts of digital technologies; (2) digital devices; (3) activities mediated by digital technologies. The lexemes of the latter group, denoting various aspects of network communication, are included in the vast majority of descriptions of emotional situations involving the components of the digital environment, and six times more often as causes of emotions than as subjects of emotional states. In general, the emotional attitude towards the components of the cyber environment as a whole is characterized as balanced, without a noticeable predominance of negative or positive emotions. However, negative states are more often attributed to the components of the cyber environment as the subjects than as the causes of emotions. The practical significance of the described method of text analysis as a means of assessing the emotional component of attitudes towards the components of the digital environment is determined by the influence that affective reactions of users have on the demand for technical innovations and the direction of their development.
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La literatura fantástica ha desarrollado, en las últimas décadas un complejo mundo de significantes a partir de la matriz originaria de la que surgió el género. Nuestra propuesta pretende abordar el fenómeno de la serialidad dentro del universo creado por Andrzej Sapkowski, pero también señalar cómo todos los aspectos morales del ser humano se manifiestan en conflictos de guerra, discriminación, odio y supervivencia, a partir de un doble estudio. Por un lado, procuraremos explicar cómo el personaje que protagoniza la saga, el brujo Geralt de Rivia, sirve como elemento vertebrador de un variopinto conjunto de textos cuyo formato varía desde las colecciones de cuentos iniciales a las novelas fragmentadas y polifónicas publicadas posteriormente, así como en las adaptaciones experimentadas en los videojuegos y las series televisivas a través de las dos adaptaciones que recibió en Polonia (2001 y 2002) y la más reciente de Netflix (2019), sin olvidar mencionar el sinfín de novelas gráficas que se han publicado en torno al mundo creado por Sapkowski. Por otro lado, será precisamente este componente intermedial del universo del brujo el que nos permitirá acercarnos a ese estudio más humano, pues cada una de las entradas al mundo diegético de Geralt de Rivia en los diferentes medios suponen la extensión de las condiciones morales de todos los personajes. El estudio de la serialidad de la Saga de Geralt de Rivia será, en fin, un análisis de la conducta del ser humano ante diversos conflictos donde la (falsa) neutralidad y el odio serán los principales factores de conducta.
Purpose Chatbots are increasingly used in online retail settings and are becoming a powerful tool for brands to engage customers. However, consumers’ satisfaction with these chatbots is mixed. Thus, this paper aims to investigate how using a social- versus task-oriented anthropomorphic communication style can improve customer satisfaction. Design/methodology/approach The authors explore the link between the anthropomorphic communication style use and customer perceptions/customer satisfaction in online customer service interactions. Two experiment scenarios were developed to test these links. Findings Overall, using a social-oriented communication style boosts customer satisfaction. Warmth perception of the chatbot mediates this effect, while chatbot’s anthropomorphised role (servant versus partner) moderates this effect. Originality/value This paper enriches the bilateral communication literature by extending the investigation on communication style effects to chatbot service interactions and revealing the psychological process driving the impacts. It also adds to the existing literature on chatbots as a customer service and contributes to the prominent topic examining how consumers react to artificial intelligence that is used to establish and maintain a relationship with them. Additionally, the authors also make contribution to the warmth and competence literature by demonstrating that customers can interpret social cues in chatbot service interactions mainly based on the warmth dimension. Thus, the authors further add to the growing chatbot humanness perception literature and respond to the calls for investigating more anthropomorphic design cues to enhance chatbot humanness. Finally, the authors also provide a way to help reconcile seemingly conflicting prior findings.
Social robots such as chatbots are regarded as a practical approach to alleviate loneliness. Few studies in the tourism field have focused on loneliness and its impact on the acceptance of chatbots used by the tourism industry. This paper explores the factors influencing tourists’ willingness to use chatbots from the perspective of loneliness by combining theories related to anthropomorphism and the uncanny valley effect. This paper adopts a qualitative research method by taking a semi-structured interview with 15 tourists who have used travel chatbots before. The results show that in addition to perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness, there are three factors (tourist loneliness, perceived anthropomorphism, and user anxiety) that directly influence tourists’ acceptance of travel chatbots. Moreover, tourist loneliness positively influences user anxiety through perceived anthropomorphism. User anxiety has a negative effect on perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness. This research then proposed an extended TAM model from the perspective of tourist loneliness. This paper enriches the research on loneliness as well as chatbots in the tourism field. The results provide suggestions for the practical application of travel chatbots.
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Due to its immense popularity amongst marketing practitioners, online personalized advertising is increasingly becoming the subject of academic research. Although advertisers need to collect a large amount of customer information to develop customized online adverts, the effect of how this information is collected on advert effectiveness has been surprisingly understudied. Equally overlooked is the interplay between consumer’s emotions and the process of consumer data collection. Two studies were conducted with the aim of closing these important gaps in the literature. Our findings revealed that overt user data collection techniques produced more favourable cognitive, attitudinal and behavioral responses than covert techniques. Moreover, consistent with the self-validation hypothesis, our data revealed that the effects of these data collection techniques can be enhanced (e.g., via happiness and pride), attenuated (e.g., via sadness), or even eliminated (e.g., via guilt), depending on the emotion experienced by the consumer while viewing an advert.
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This paper builds on Hatano and Inagaki’s pioneering work on the role of experience and cultural models in children’s biological reasoning. We use a category-based induction task to consider how experience and cultural models shape rural and urban children’s patterns of biological reasoning. We discuss the implications of these findings for developmental theory and educational practice.
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People behave differently in the presence of other people than they do when they are alone. People also may behave differently when designers introduce more human-like qualities into computer interfaces. In an experimental study we demonstrate that people's responses to a talking-face interface differ from their responses to a text-display interface. They attribute some personality traits to it; they are more aroused by it; they present themselves in a more positive light. We use theories of person perception, social facilitation, and self-presentation to predict and interpret these results. We suggest that as computer interfaces become more "human-like," people who use those interfaces may change their own personas in response to them.
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Several state legislatures now require that before a woman may consent to an abortion, she must first undergo an ultrasound and be offered the image of her fetus.The justification is that without an ultrasound, her consent will not be fully informed. Such legislation, the latest move in abortion regulation, supposes that a woman who sees the image will be less likely to abort. This Article explores how visual politics has combined with visual technology, and how law has seized upon both in a campaign to encourage women to choose against abortion. While rarely analyzed, the significance of seeing, or what one court has called sensory and contemporaneous observance, in fact appears throughout the law. This Article develops a visuality of law, focusing specially on the treatment of fetal imagery. Drawing upon medical and ethnographic literature on sonography, this Article situates the regulatory appeal of mandatory ultrasound within a preexisting visual familiarity with the fetus. I argue that while a welcome and rewarding experience in the context of wanted pregnancies, ultrasound becomes pernicious when required by law in connection with abortion. The argument I develop is that not only is an abortion decision itself protected, but so is the deliberative path a woman takes to reach that decision.Mandatory ultrasound intrudes upon that protected area of decisionmaking in several respects. First, simply by virtue of having an ultrasound, a pregnant woman is promoted into the category of mother and it is against this conscripted status that she must proceed. Second, unlike other compulsory forms of abortion disclosure, the statutes require the woman to use her body to produce the very information intended to dissuade her from pursuing an abortion. The resulting fetal image is intended as a self-evident statement about the meaning of human life.But characterizing the fetus as a child, as most ultrasound statutes do, is a political description, not a scientific one. It confuses medically informed consent with what I identify as morally informed consent, that realm of personal considerations that are a woman's alone to determine. Imbued with indelible social meaning, the mandatory ultrasound requirement replaces consent with coercion - not about the ultimate decision, but about how a woman chooses to get there.
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People commonly anthropomorphize nonhuman agents, imbuing everything from computers to pets to gods with humanlike capacities and mental experiences. Although widely observed, the determinants of anthropomorphism are poorly understood and rarely investigated. We propose that people anthropomorphize, in part, to satisfy effectance motivation-the basic and chronic motivation to attain mastery of one's environment. Five studies demonstrated that increasing effectance motivation by manipulating the perceived unpredictability of a nonhuman agent or by increasing the incentives for mastery increases anthropomorphism. Neuroimaging data demonstrated that the neural correlates of this process are similar to those engaged when mentalizing other humans. A final study demonstrated that anthropomorphizing a stimulus makes it appear more predictable and understandable, suggesting that anthropomorphism satisfies effectance motivation. Anthropomorphizing nonhuman agents seems to satisfy the basic motivation to make sense of an otherwise uncertain environment.
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We examine empirical evidence for religious prosociality, the hypothesis that religions facilitate costly behaviors that benefit other people. Although sociological surveys reveal an association between self-reports of religiosity and prosociality, experiments measuring religiosity and actual prosocial behavior suggest that this association emerges primarily in contexts where reputational concerns are heightened. Experimentally induced religious thoughts reduce rates of cheating and increase altruistic behavior among anonymous strangers. Experiments demonstrate an association between apparent profession of religious devotion and greater trust. Cross-cultural evidence suggests an association between the cultural presence of morally concerned deities and large group size in humans. We synthesize converging evidence from various fields for religious prosociality, address its specific boundary conditions, and point to unresolved questions and novel predictions.
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The cognitive study of religion has been highly influenced by P. Boyer's (2001, 2003) claim that supernatural beings are conceptualized as persons with counterintuitive properties. The present study tests the generality of this claim by exploring how different supernatural beings are conceptualized by the same individual and how different individuals conceptualize the same supernatural beings. In Experiment 1, college undergraduates decided whether three types of human properties (psychological, biological, physical) could or could not be attributed to two types of supernatural beings (religious, fictional). On average, participants attributed more human properties to fictional beings, like fairies and vampires, than to religious beings, like God and Satan, and they attributed more psychological properties than nonpsychological properties to both. In Experiment 2, 5-year-old children and their parents made both open-ended and closed-ended property attributions. Although both groups of participants attributed a majority of human properties to the fictional beings, children attributed a majority of human properties to the religious beings as well. Taken together, these findings suggest that anthropomorphic theories of supernatural-being concepts, though fully predictive of children's concepts, are only partially predictive of adults' concepts.
Conference Paper
PURPOSE To evaluate the effects of adding the patient's photograph on the radiographic workup. METHOD AND MATERIALS A total of 1,137 CT examinations where performed at a single tertiary-care hospital in January, 2008. Two hundres and sixty-seven patients referred for CT agreed to being photographed prior to the examination. Mean patient age was 62.9 years (range 20-95). These patients comprised the study group, and their pictures were added to their file in the PACS. The photographs appeared automatically when opening the file. Fifteen radiologists who interpreted the examinations were asked to complete a questionnaire composed for the purpose of this study addressing their attitude toward the examinations after seeing the patients’ pictures. In order to assess the effect on the interpretation, 30 examinations from the study group containing incidental findings were shown again in a blinded fashion to the same radiologists after 3 months without the patients' photographs. RESULTS All radiologists felt more empathy to the patients after seeing the photograph. The photographs revealed medical information such as suffering or physical signs of disease. Out of the 30 cases which were presented twice, in 80% the incidental findings were not reported when the photograph was omitted from the file. All radiologists involved reported that the addition of the photograph did not lengthen the duration of the examination, however did render the interpretation more meticulous. All recommended adopting this idea to routine practice. CONCLUSION The addition of a patient's photograph to the radiographic images may be beneficial in interpreting examinations when the radiologist is not in physical contact with the patient. Further research with larger sample sizes is required, in order to verify the significance of this study. CLINICAL RELEVANCE/APPLICATION Radiologists often review CT images at a later time or from remote locations and lack physician patient contact. Addition of a photograph enables a more personal approach.
In humans and monkeys the mirror neuron system transforms seen actions into our inner representation of these actions. Here we asked if this system responds also if we see an industrial robot perform similar actions. We localised the motor areas involved in the execution of hand actions, presented the same subjects blocks of movies of humans or robots perform a variety of actions. The mirror system was activated strongly by the sight of both human and robotic actions, with no significant differences between these two agents. Finally we observed that seeing a robot perform a single action repeatedly within a block failed to activate the mirror system. This latter finding suggests that previous studies may have failed to find mirror activations to robotic actions because of the repetitiveness of the presented actions. Our findings suggest that the mirror neuron system could contribute to the understanding of a wider range of actions than previously assumed, and that the goal of an action might be more important for mirror activations than the way in which the action is performed.
We investigate the problem of how nonnatural entities are represented by examining university students' concepts of God, both professed theological beliefs and concepts used in comprehension of narratives. In three story processing tasks, subjects often used an anthropomorphic God concept that is inconsistent with stated theological beliefs; and drastically distorted the narratives without any awareness of doing so. By heightening subjects' awareness of their theological beliefs, we were able to manipulate the degree of anthropomorphization. This tendency to anthropomorphize may be generalizable to other agents. God (and possibly other agents) is unintentionally anthropomorphized in some contexts, perhaps as a means of representing poorly understood nonnatural entities.