The Basics of Animal Behaviour

A short e-Book introducing some of the fundementals of animal behaviour and its research.

2. Anthropomorphism

Article | RZSSResearchers need to be careful when doing behavioural research. Animals do not laugh, smile or cry as humans do, so it can be very hard to interpret how an animal is feeling. Sometimes humans try to put our own emotions on an animal:


e.g. “that animal looks sad” or “That animal looks happy”


This is called anthropomorphism, and it is best to avoid this. Often the humans perception of how the animal is feeling is effected by how the human is feeling of their own views. In addition, not all animals ofcourse have as complex a range of thoughts and emotions as humans. Those that do, such as chimpanzee communicate these in very different ways (e.g. A smile is not a sign of happiness in chimpanzees but instead a sign of fear and distress).

To avoid any bias caused by anthropomorphism, researchers use ethograms when collecting their data. This is more scientific than attempting to guess what an animal may or may not be feeling.