Anthropomorphism as Cognitive Bias

Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1152-1164 (2017)
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Abstract

Philosophers and psychologists have long worried that the human tendency to anthropomorphize leads us to err in our understanding of nonhuman minds. This tendency, which I call intuitive anthropomorphism, is a heuristic used by our unconscious folk psychology to understand nonhuman animals. The dominant understanding of intuitive anthropomorphism underestimates its complexity. If we want to understand and control intuitive anthropomorphism, we must treat it as a cognitive bias and look to the empirical evidence. This evidence suggests that the most common control for intuitive anthropomorphism, Morgan’s Canon, should be rejected, while others are incomplete. It also suggests new approaches.

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