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Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is when bird owners interpret their parrot's behavior in terms of human behavior.

By Liz Wilson

DEFINITION OF ANTHROPOMORPHISM

Webster’s Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as the application of human characteristics to non-human animals. Until somewhat recently, science considered anthropomorphism to be highly unscientific and to be avoided at all cost. In the last two decades, such beliefs have relaxed somewhat, allowing for such things as animals like parrots being capable of emotion.

POSITIVE EFFECTS OF ANTHROPOMORPHISM

There are times when it seems easier for owners to understand the behavior of their parrots when parallels are drawn to children’s development. For example, people who have raised children can better understand how parrots continually learn and change throughout their lives. Those without this experience often expect parrots to be like dogs and cats, which generally cease changing dramatically by the time they reach sexual maturity at the age of approximately 1 year.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF ANTHROPOMORPHISM

By attempting to apply human interpretation to the behavior of an animal like a parrot, people often totally misconstrue the meaning of a parrot’s actions. For instance, because many people may only yell when they are angry, they might automatically conclude a parrot is angry when it yells. In reality, most parrots yell simply because they are parrots and parrots make noise.

In the example under “Positive Effects,” these attempts at clarification can often be misunderstood. For instance, many young parrots encounter a developmental period in which they suddenly refuse to do things they compliantly did before. As a consequence, some experts dubbed this period as “The Terrible Twos” after a similar developmental stage in infants. However, instead of understanding that the nickname applies to a behavioral stage, not a chronological age, some people automatically assume that this period only happens when a parrot is actually 2 years old.

WHAT TO DO

Remember that parrots are not feathered children. Instead, they are parrots – nothing more, nothing less. Instead of fallaciously trying to interpret parrot behavior in terms of human behavior, people need to analyze a parrot’s behaviors in terms of the animal’s motivations and what it might be trying to accomplish with a behavior.

Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Behavior Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.


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Reader Comments
Sometimes they almost seem human!
james, brooklyn, NY
Posted: 12/12/2011 11:40:28 AM
I agree with Valerie
melinda, westchester, NY
Posted: 12/12/2011 11:31:17 AM
Who says parrots are not little feathered people?
valerie, glen oaks, NY
Posted: 12/11/2011 9:02:53 PM
Nice article
joan, franklin squarte, NY
Posted: 12/11/2011 8:55:41 PM
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