Development of anthropomorphism and moral concern for nonhuman entities
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Recent research has revealed that some adults tend to anthropomorphize more than others and that such people reason differently about nonhuman entities. Specifically, individuals who tend to anthropomorphize show greater concern for nonhuman entities and are more likely to be concerned for the environment. The proposed study extended this line of work to children, examining developmental patterns in anthropomorphism and behavior toward nonhuman entities. In one task children were asked whether or not different kinds of nonhuman entities (dogs, trees, robots, dolls) were capable of a range of psychological states (e.g., thinking, feeling). In a separate task with vignettes children were asked to judge the morality of actions that led to a negative consequence for a nonhuman target. The main prediction was that children who attributed more psychological properties to nonhuman entities would be more likely to exhibit concern for nonhuman targets in the moral stories. Overall, the results failed to capture a general relation between psychological attributions and moral judgments, perhaps owing to methodological shortcomings but perhaps also because children in our sample did not appear to exhibit general tendencies to anthropomorphize as adults have in previous research.