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Duration:03:42
Uploaded:2015-11-27
Last sync:2018-05-10 01:40
Jessi discusses anthropomorphism and how it can interfere with communication and your overall relationship with a non-human animal.

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Oh look! She's smiling, she must be so happy to be with me.

Aw he's not coming over. I bet he's mad at me for being gone all day.

Stop! I can't do it anymore, even if I'm just pretending, I can't anthropomorphize.

You've probably heard the word anthropomorphize before; it means attributing human emotions to non-human animals or objects. It's a super easy thing to slip into because we're using a human brain ensconced in human culture to observe and interpret a non-human's actions

So it takes practise and a clear understanding of why it's important not to anthropomorphize.

(Intro)

Tina is not smiling at me. If I only looked at the shape of her mouth, then I might be missing out on all the other ways she's trying to communicate with me. Maybe she's stressed out or aggressive, I wouldn't know if I only looked at her mouth. Just because humans smile to indicate happiness, doesn't mean that other animals do too. In fact smiling can be a non-verbal communication for aggression in some animals.

Some primates use an open teeth smile as a way to say "look at my teeth, they're sharp and I will use them if I need to", or a closed teeth smile to indicate submission.

And Tina the rubber boa is smiling for no other reason than her mouth is shaped that way.

It's important not to use anthropomorphism to interpret an animal's behavior because you're going to miss out on what that animal is really trying to communicate to you.

Learning how an animal communicates is one of my favorite parts of caring for them. I'd like to share a couple of stories where anthropomorphizing the animal could have led to problems between the human and the animal.

Chili Pepper the Patagonian cavy is sitting in the corner when I walk in. Instead to walking up to greet me like a human might he stays still, keeping his distance. If I interpreted that behavior as him being mad at me, then I might try and avoid him, or give him treats to make him happy again. But if I know what a cavy's natural behaviors are, I know that he's just instinctually taking in a situation before he acts.

If I wait just one more second, he'll determine that the situation is safe and he actually does want to come over and interact with me. If I had left him alone thinking he was mad at me, I would have missed out on a good interaction session.

Here's another story: we used to have an umbrella cockatoo named Coconut and he used to say hello every time he saw my dad. Now my dad, being the normal human that he is, thought Coconut was being friendly. When I finally saw the behavior for myself, I immediately knew Coconut was being anything but friendly. His crest was up his, eyes were pitting, his wings were held away from his body, and his beak was held open. This is the most aggressive stance that a cockatoo can hold, and Coconut was communicating in no subtle terms that he intensely disliked my dad.

Now, it wasn't my dad's fault. Coconut just didn't like men, but I'm really glad that my dad never tried to interact with him because, well, umbrella cockatoos can break a broomstick with their beak.

When I know how an animal communicates in their own language, it makes it so much easier to care for their mental and physical well being.

Now it's impossible to completely get rid of anthropomorphism, since I am using a human brain. However when my intentions are to understand an animal's behavior from the animal's point of view, then I'm better able to assess their true communications, which just leads to a closer friendship and stronger trust bond between us.

Thanks for joining us today on our anthropomorphism adventure, if you would like to go on more adventures with us every week you can subscribe to our YouTube channel: Animal Wonders Montana. If you have any questions you can leave them in the comments below or fine me on Twitter @animal_wonders.

Thanks Guys.

(Outro)

"And she just joined us about a month ago. Tika was a surplus zoo animal which means she needed to find a permanent home"