chapter  71
3 Pages

Anthropomorphism

WithRobert Epstein

Anthropom orphism is not a term used with great rigor in psychology or other academic fields, and hence, it is difficult to define pre­ cisely. The term, along with its verb form, an­ thropom orphize, has Greek roots meaning “formed like a man.” In English and American dictionaries, it is usually defined broadly as “the attribution of human form or characteristics to nonhuman entities.” The connotation is gener­ ally negative. Early uses in the English language in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries almost always referred to misguided tendencies to as­ cribe human form or human characteristics to the Judeo-Christian deity. Such attributions were considered by some theologians to be de­ meaning, given that the deity was believed to be immortal, incorporeal, omniscient, and omni­ present, with humans falling far short of the mark. Some authors speak of “animism”—the ancient belief that all objects, living and nonliv­ ing, are occupied by living spirits-as an early form of anthropomorphism.