• Keeping Friends

People Who Need People May Anthropomorphize

Published: January 26, 2008 | Last Updated: April 6, 2021 By | Reply Continue Reading
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What do lonely people do when they need friends but have none? According to new research, they tend to anthropomorphize: They attribute human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural
phenomena.

“When people lack a sense of connection with other people, they are more likely to see their pets, gadgets or gods as human-like,” says psychologist Nicholas Epley, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, in a press release.

The loneliness of having too few friends or being totally bereft of friends can be excruciatingly painful. In fact, Epley suggests that it can even be deadly. “It’s actually a greater risk for morbidity or mortality than cigarette smoking is. Being lonely is a bad thing for you,” he says.

The researchers suggest that humanizing the inhuman may confer some of the same benefits that people derive from friends and other social relationships.

The bottom Line: If you find yourself talking to your cat, you may want to think about whether you have a friendship deficit that needs to be addressed.

The study appeared in the February issue of Psychological Science. Also contributing to the research were Scott Akalis of Harvard University and the University of Chicago’s Adam Waytz and John Cacioppo.

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

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