Dogpatch Press

Fluff Pieces Every Week Day

Category: nature

A famous experiment in anthropomorphism and psychology

by Patch O'Furr

HarlowMonkey

Flayrah News, 3/5/2013:

Anthropomorphism is often imagined from our human point of view (attaching human characteristics to something non-human). But the concept can exist apart from ourselves, when animals see themselves in objects. The way it works for them can reveal more about us.

Harry Harlow was a psychologist who experimented with monkeys. In the 1950’s and 60’s, he gave his subjects “surrogate” mothers built from different objects, to see how they would behave, and learn about care-giving and companionship in social and cognitive development. PBS says about his famous experiment:

He took infant monkeys away from their real mothers, giving them instead two artificial mothers, one model made of wire and the other made of cloth. The wire model was outfitted with a bottle to feed the baby monkey. But the babies rarely stayed with the wire model longer than it took to get the necessary food. They clearly preferred cuddling with the softer cloth model, especially if they were scared. (When the cloth model had the bottle, they didn’t go to the wire model at all.)

Here’s an image gallery that illustrates the concept of “anthropomorphism” in monkey terms. To understand the experiment as a powerful metaphor, this web art project/essay says a lot with few words: Chicken Wire Mother.

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Raccoons after dark: their haters, and their lovers

by Patch O'Furr

Flayrah News: 11/2/12

Urban raccoons are known as cute, smart, yet sometimes destructive pests that cause headaches for homeowners. Their mischief can range from raiding trash, to sensational headlines about terrorized neighborhoods that call for traps and controls.

According to the PBS nature show Raccoon Nation:

In an effort to outwit raccoons, we may be pushing their brain development and perhaps even sending them down a new evolutionary path. One biologist who has been studying raccoons for 25 years believes the city life is in fact cultivating “über-raccoons,” ready to take over the world.

While PBS jokes about “über-raccoons”, Germany has somber, no-nonsense, bedenklich news about their Nazi raccoon occupation.
Cooners
Some people worry about repelling them, but other people have a much more welcoming point of view… although they might keep their unsavory interests on the down-low. Mauricio Baiocchi, a distinguished San Francisco Bay area animator with credits from Industrial Light and Magic, lets us in on their sordid secrets in his 2011 short film, Cooners.
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In San Francisco, dogs outnumber children, and wild coyotes live among us

by Patch O'Furr

(Flayrah news: 5/26/12)

Does anyone remember this story from a few years ago, about a coyote who wandered into a Quizno’s shop, inadvertently starring in one of the best viral sandwich and drink ads ever?

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