This article originally appeared and was published on AOL.com
Who’s a good boy?
If you spend a lot of time talking to your dog, odds are, YOU are.
Nicholas Epley, a behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago, says that when we speak to our pets or assign them other human-like characteristics, we are anthropomorphising them, which he refers to as “a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet.”
Epley says that as people age, we tend to stop anthropomorphising for fear it may make us look a little crazy to our peers.
“Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet,” Epley told Quartz. “No other species has this tendency.”
This rule doesn’t just apply to pets — according to Epley, author of Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want, anthropomorphising can take on multiple different forms.
“We often name objects like cars, instruments, boats, and cameras — all items that we develop special relationships with and consider extensions of our own identities,” he said. “But it goes beyond naming: We think our cat is acting “sassy”; that the stock market is “angry” or “working to recover;” and we ask our car “why it won’t turn on” and call it a “rickety old man” when it starts to stall. This is just the byproduct of having an active, intelligent social cognition — of having a brain that is programmed to see and perceive minds.”
So keep on talking to your house plants and calling your car by her first name — it doesn’t mean you’re insane, it just means you’re brilliant.
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