by Patch O'Furr
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.