Anthropomorphism occurs when writers attribute human actions to inanimate sources or to nonhuman animals, as demonstrated in the following table.
|Correct usage||Incorrect usage||Rationale|
|Rat pairs lived in the same enclosure.||Rat couples lived in the same enclosure.||“Rat couples” makes a misleading comparison between pairs of rats and human romantic couples.|
|The theory addresses||The theory concludes||A theory might address, indicate, or present, but researchers (not theories) conclude.|
Determining what constitutes anthropomorphism can be challenging, and even distinguished scholars may disagree. If a construction is in widespread use and its meaning is unambiguous, it is usually not anthropomorphic. For example, when describing what is contained in sections of an APA Style paper, the following constructions are all acceptable:
In this section, I address
This section addresses
This paper focuses on
In this paper, I focus on
The results suggest
The study found
The data provide evidence that
If you are unsure whether a construction constitutes anthropomorphism, try rewording the sentence or choosing a different verb. Also consult published works to become familiar with acceptable phrasings.