An interesting study from Toronto University’s Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development has found that excessive consumption of films and books portraying animals as having human characteristics, walking on two legs, wearing clothes, talking, etc, can lead to “less factual learning” among children. Watching or reading about animals that were “anthropomorphized,” or given human qualities, led to confusion and the assumption among young participants that animals really have those qualities.
The researchers recommended that parents add an equal number of factual books and films about actual wildlife to compensate for those portraying human-like cartoon animals (Rachel Reilly, “Is Mickey Mouse Making Your Child STUPID? Animal Characters That Wear Clothes or Talk ‘Damage Learning’, Claims Study,” The Daily Mail at DailyMail.co.uk, March 26, 2014).
This fascinating study about the ramifications of what and how humans learn as they grow can help us to understand how to better guard our minds. It is interesting to note that many of the pagan gods and goddess of the ancient biblical world were given some or several human qualities. Dagon the god of the Philistines was portrayed as part fish and part man. In their tradition, many of the Egyptian gods had dual human and animals forms, such as Anubis, the part jackal, part human god of the underworld. The ancient Greeks also had supernatural creatures, like the half horse, half man centaurs, that were partially anthropomorphized, and the list goes on.
The lesson is to be sure that we balance the curiosities and entertainment trends of our age with the truth. Teaching children that animals behave as God created them, and not as a mix of human and animal is a part of differentiating ourselves from the society around us. Giving young ones a solid foundation in truth is vital.