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Journal Articles Behavioural Processes Year : 1995

Introducing anthropomorphism, discontinuities and anecdotes to question them


Recourse to anthropomorphism, folk psychology, or discontinuist thought, in order to take into account the richness of animal cognitive processes and of their evolution, is of some heuristic value. However, in the absence of recognised criteria allowing the hypothesised behavioural discontinuities between species to be tested and alternative interpretations of anecdotal reports to be selected, there is considerable risk that these alternatives will be ideological rather than scientific. A ‘clinical analysis’ of this anthropomorphism and discontinuist ‘symptom’ allows us to unravel its ideological aspect, namely the wishful thinking and the ‘egomorphism’ of a subject projecting a wishful representation of himself onto one who is not ego, and in turn to investigate its heuristic value in ethnological, psychopathological or animal behavioural studies. This analysis leads us to propose some tools: 1. (i) to question the egomorphic hypotheses and the wish they contain; 2. (ii) to locate behavioural and cognitive discontinuities, by evaluating the conceptual and methodological broadening needed to take into account behavioural complexity; 3. (iii) to propose a way of selecting alternative interpretation of monographic and anecdotal reports, by considering the number and the degree of convergence of the indicators they collect; 4. (iv) to enhance the assessment of these reports by computerised textual analysis.

Dates and versions

hal-01365326 , version 1 (13-09-2016)



Jean-Marie Vidal, Michel Vancassel, René Quris. Introducing anthropomorphism, discontinuities and anecdotes to question them. Behavioural Processes, 1995, 35 (1-3), pp.299-309. ⟨10.1016/0376-6357(95)00042-9⟩. ⟨hal-01365326⟩
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