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Anthropomorphism is the use of human characteristics to describe or explain nonhuman animals. In the present paper, we propose a model for a unified study of such anthropomorphizing. We bring together previously disparate accounts of why and how we anthropomorphize and suggest a means to analyze anthropomorphizing behavior itself. We introduce an analysis of bouts of dyadic play between humans and a heavily anthropomorphized animal, the domestic dog. Four distinct patterns of social interaction recur in successful dog–human play: directed responses by one player to the other, indications of intent, mutual behaviors, and contingent activity. These findings serve as a preliminary answer to the question, “What behaviors prompt anthropomorphisms?” An analysis of anthropomorphizing is potentially useful in establishing a scientific basis for this behavior, in explaining its endurance, in the design of “lifelike” robots, and in the analysis of human interaction. Finally, the relevance of this developing scientific area to contemporary debates about anthropomorphizing behavior is discussed.


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