Anthropomorphism: Human Traits for Non-Humans?

Have You Ever?

Have you ever heard the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare? Do the characters from the story remind you of any people in your life? Please explain why.

Here’s Why

The reason why the characters of this popular fable might remind you of people in your life is because the characters from the story have been assigned human traits, emotions, and intentions. For example, both the tortoise and the hare possess the ability to speak and think just like humans; this is known as anthropomorphism. 

Definition of Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is the designation of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. 

The History

Anthropomorphism has ancient roots. From the beginning of human existence, people used anthropomorphism in storytelling. Other cultures have traditional fables with anthropomorphized animals as characters. It has also been common for people to attribute human feelings and emotions to wild and domesticated animals.   

Using It

Anthropomorphism can be used as a tool to explain concepts that may otherwise be difficult to explain to certain audiences. For example, the Tortoise and the Hare fable is many times  used to teach younger children that when working toward a goal sometimes it is better to move slowly and steadily as opposed to acting quickly and carelessly.

Think Further

  1. Can you think of  a story that uses animals or other non-human characters to explain a human concept?
  2. What human qualities do these characters present?
  3. What concept do you think the story was trying to convey?


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Learn More

  1. Moss, Stephen (15 January 2016). “What you see in this picture says more about you than the kangaroo”. The Guardian.
  2. Hutson, Matthew (2012). The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. New York: Hudson Street Press. pp. 165–81. ISBN 978-1-101-55832-4.