We have this biased anthropomorphized thing that leads us to treat inanimate objects as alive or to treat things that are alive like pets as if they are more conscious or more intelligent than they actually are. And so you can become a crazy cat lady if you abandon actual people in your environment and just focus on your pets or your stuffed animals or your live doll or whatever you have.
But it can also be helpful. There is research showing that pets increase people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. I actually visited a VA hospital in DC where they made use of the robotic baby seal. It’s a $6,000 robot that’s white and fluffy and the people at the hospital, they hold it in their laps and it purrs and it responds to your touch. And these guys, they knew that it’s just a robot, they know that it’s not alive, but still, their magical thinking and their anthropomorphizing leads them to treat it as if it’s a real companion. And they speak to it and it helps them and it gives them comfort.
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In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.