Many books for young children present animals in fantastical and unrealistic ways, such as wearing clothes, talking and engaging in human-like activities. This research examined whether anthropomorphism in children's books affects children's learning and conceptions of animals, by specifically assessing the impact of depictions (a bird wearing clothes and reading a book) and language (bird described as talking and as having human intentions). In Study 1, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children saw picture books featuring realistic drawings of a novel animal. Half of the children also heard factual, realistic language, while the other half heard anthropomorphized language. In Study 2, we replicated the first study using anthropomorphic illustrations of real animals. The results show that the language used to describe animals in books has an effect on children's tendency to attribute human-like traits to animals, and that anthropomorphic storybooks affect younger children's learning of novel facts about animals. These results indicate that anthropomorphized animals in books may not only lead to less learning but also influence children's conceptual knowledge of animals.
Keywords: picture books, preschoolers, learning, animals, anthropomorphism
Citation: Ganea PA, Canfield CF, Simons-Ghafari K and Chou T (2014) Do cavies talk? The effect of anthropomorphic picture books on children's knowledge about animals. Front. Psychol. 5:283. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00283
Received: 14 November 2013; Paper pending published: 10 December 2013;
Accepted: 17 March 2014; Published online: 10 April 2014.
Edited by:Jessica S. Horst, University of Sussex, UK
Copyright © 2014 Ganea, Canfield, Simons-Ghafari and Chou. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Patricia A. Ganea, Institute of Child Study, 45 Walmer Rd., Toronto, ON M5R 2X2, Canada e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org