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To anthropomorphise is to ascribe human features to something, such as an animal. Is there a word that means the opposite, namely to deny a feature exists in an animal because it is assumed to be uniquely human?

For example, some would see it as anthropomorphising to say a dog misses its owner. How would you describe it when it is said a dog can not miss its owner as animals do not feel emotions?

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How about misanthropomorphization? ;=P – Robusto May 12 '11 at 20:13
@Robusto No, it would clearly be disanthropomorphesis. – snumpy May 12 '11 at 20:38
@snumpy: Academicians have argued the point for decades, but in 2004, the disanthropomorphesisian point of view was finally discredited. – Robusto May 12 '11 at 20:54
The opposite of anthropomorphise is dehumanise, but that's not what you're after. – Matt E. Эллен May 12 '11 at 21:05
I think your example isn't great, as it's not anthropomorphizing to say a dog misses his owner (they do). Maybe if you said the dog loves his owner... further more, even allowing for that, not ascribing human emotions to non-humans would just be nothing. I'm not doing any of the answers below if I don't ascribe emotion to a frying pan. – Sam May 12 '11 at 23:04
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would think that if you were robbing something of its human characteristics you would be objectifying it:

reduce to object: to reduce somebody, or something that is complex and multifaceted, to the status of a simple object.

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This does not quite capture what I'm after but is reasonably close. Thanks. – dave May 13 '11 at 18:00
I thought about your comment above where you said "I was after a word (or phrase) that covers the belief that humans so are special that animals cannot share any characteristics." I was half-joking with the "Inherit the Wind" quote I used in the comments of the main question, but there is a bit of truth in that too. The only people that believe that humans are so special that they can't share characteristics with animals are 'creationists' or 'anti-evolutionists'. This is why I thought about "Inherit the Wind" because the play is about the tension between evolutionists and creationists. – gbutters May 13 '11 at 18:15
In terms of feelings emotions, there are some scientists who would also say that animals do not "feel". If something can not be objectively tested and quantified, then it does not provably exist. In which case, Occam's razor comes into play. Is it that a dog "loves" or it is that humans anthropomorphise a dog's behaviour to match what they understand or desire. Alternatively, does a dog just behave in a way that it has been trained to in order to maximise the returns from its relationship with its owner (or pack). Though, one could say the same about human relationships. – dave May 13 '11 at 19:35

That would be zoomorphism:

Zoomorphism is the shaping of something in animal form or terms. Examples include:

  • The tendency of viewing human behaviour in terms of the behaviour of animals, analogous to anthropomorphism, which views animal behaviour in human terms
  • Art that imagines humans as animals
  • Art that portrays one species of animal like another species of animal
  • Art that creates patterns using animal imagery, or animal style
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Please can you give an example of how it can be used to "deny a feature exists in an animal because it is assumed to be uniquely human"? I don't quite get how it fits. – Matt E. Эллен May 12 '11 at 21:52
@Matt Ah, you have a point. Zoomorphism is more analogous than it is opposite. – HaL May 12 '11 at 22:11

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