Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Are They Really Trying to Save Their Buddy? The Anthropomorphism of Animal Epimeletic Behaviours

Version 1 : Received: 12 November 2020 / Approved: 16 November 2020 / Online: 16 November 2020 (14:23:45 CET)

How to cite: Sueur, C.; Forin-Wiart, M.; Pelé, M. Are They Really Trying to Save Their Buddy? The Anthropomorphism of Animal Epimeletic Behaviours. Preprints 2020, 2020110425 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202011.0425.v1). Sueur, C.; Forin-Wiart, M.; Pelé, M. Are They Really Trying to Save Their Buddy? The Anthropomorphism of Animal Epimeletic Behaviours. Preprints 2020, 2020110425 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202011.0425.v1).

Abstract

Anthropomorphism is a natural tendency in humans, but it is also influenced by many characteristics of the observer (the human) and the observed entity (here, the animal species). This study asked participants to complete an online questionnaire about three videos showing epimeletic behaviours in three animal species. In the videos, an individual (a sparrow, an elephant and a macaque, respectively) displayed behaviours towards an inanimate conspecific that suddenly regained consciousness at the end of the footage. A fourth video showed a robot dog being kicked by an engineer to demonstrate its stability. Each video was followed by a series of questions designed to evaluate the degree of anthropomorphism of participants, from mentaphobia (no attribution of intentions and beliefs, whatever the animal species) to full anthropomorphism (full attribution of intentions and beliefs by animals, to the same extent as in humans) and to measure how far the participants had correctly assessed each situation in terms of biological reality (current scientific knowledge of each species). There is a negative correlation (about 61%) between the mental states attributed to animals by humans to animals and the real capability of animals. The heterogeneity of responses proved that humans display different forms of anthropomorphism, from rejecting all emotional or intentional states in animals to considering animals to show the same intentions as humans. However, the scores participants attributed to animals differed according to the species shown in the video and to human sociodemographic characteristics. Understanding the potential usefulness of these factors can lead to better relationships with animals and encourage a positive view of human-robot interactions. Indeed, reflective or critical anthropomorphism can increase our humanity.

Subject Areas

Empathy; comparative thanatology; cognitive biases; animal ethics; mentaphobia; primates; elephants; birds; robot

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