Anthropomorphism

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The attribution of human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, forces of nature, and others. "Anthropomorphism" comes from two Greek words, anthropos meaning man, and morphos meaning shape or form.


Various mythologies are often almost entirely concerned with anthropomorphic gods in human forms and possessing human characteristics such as jealousy, hatred, or love. The Greek gods such as Zeus and Apollo often were depicted in anthropomorphic forms. The ten avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu possesses human forms and qualities. Current religious belief generally holds that is improper to describe the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as human. However, it is extremely difficult for the average person to picture or discuss God or the gods without an anthropomorphic framework.


Anthropomorphism is also important in many traditions of magic, where it is thought that entites can be affected by appealing to, bartering with or threatening their spirits.


It is a common tendancy for people to think of inanimate objects as having human-like characteristics as well, though few if any actually believe this to have real significance. Common examples include naming one's car or begging a machine to work. Advances in artificial intelligence are beginning to make such foibles into a potentially more significant phenomenon, however, as computers begin to reach the point where they can recognize spoken language. Some computers are already very good at displaying very specific and specialized categories of human-like behaviour, such as learning from their mistakes or to anticipate certain input, playing chess and other games with humanlike capability, and even in the case of robots potentially taking on humanlike form.


The use of anthropomorphized animals has a long tradition in art and literature. Frequently they are used to portray stereotypical characters, in order to quickly convey what characteristics the author or artist intends for them to posess. Examples include Aesop's fables and political cartoons. Many of the most famous children's television characters are anthropomorphized animals; Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, for example. In recent years interest in anthropomorphic animals has also spawned a genre of more adult-oriented examples, commonly referred to as "furries" or "morphs" for short. Terry Pratchett is notable for having several anthropomorphic personifications in his Discworld books, perhaps most well known the character Death.