People attribute human qualities to toys, products, and machines, and they design toys, products, and machines to enhance this process (see anthropomorphic form). Our anthropomorphic perceptions and ideas influence how we interact with animals, robots, and products-- how much we like them, how much we trust them, and how much we rely on them (see the psychology section).
Many leading scientists consider anthropomorphism to be a misleading and self-centered folk theory about animals or objects. Until 2004, the Pittsburgh Zoo did not name its animals publicly, for fear the public would think of wild animals as pets or people.
A different point of view is exemplified by Darwin, who argued that the difference between us and animals is only a matter of degree. Some biologists working with apes and chimps agree, as would people who consider their pets to be family members.
What about machines? Eventually we will build robots having many human qualities, including the ability to talk and to take the point of view of others. Again there is debate. Some roboticists say building humanoid robots will help us learn about people. Humanoids might interact better with people than more machine-like robots would. Others are aghast at this claim. See the theory section for more information, and our bibliography for some references.
This website promotes understanding of anthropomorphism. Our work on these projects has finished, but the website will continue to be available as a community resource.