Introduction to Animism Psychology
In psychology, animism refers to the attribution of human characteristics to animals, plants, and objects. This may include characteristics such as personality, intelligence, and intentionality. While animism psychology can be found in adults and children alike, the way in which it manifests varies by age group.
For example, in young children (up to the age of 7), animism manifests as the belief that everything has a spirit—including rocks, trees, cars, and toys—and that humans have unique spirits among them. Young children also tend to believe that spirits are good or bad depending on their behavior.
Define Animism Psychology
In psychology, animism is the belief that inanimate objects are alive. This can manifest in a number of ways, but is often seen in children’s pretend play. For example, a child might believe that their stuffed animal is really alive and has feelings. An adult might see the toy as just an object, whereas for a child this representation takes on life or spirit.
Piaget believed that children go through four stages before they reach what he called object permanence. In stage one, everything exists only in relation to its environment – as soon as something changes its location then it ceases to exist at all.
What is Animism psychology?
Animism psychology is the belief that everything in the world, including inanimate objects, has a spirit. This belief is often seen in children’s imaginative play. For example, a child might believe that their stuffed animal comes to life when they leave the room.
Piaget was one of the first psychologists to study animism psychology by observing how preschoolers interacted with toys and dolls. Piaget believed that animistic thinking develops in phases over time, starting with early childhood where there is a lot of imagination involved.
The Importance of Understanding Animate Minds
Most of us think of the natural world as being inanimate. However, Animism psychology is the belief that everything, both animate and inanimate, has a mind or spirit. This belief is common in many cultures around the world, and can be seen in children as young as three years old. Piaget described this as animism in child development; he called it the animistic mode of thought.
Children at this age will often make up stories about animals they see, attributing human qualities to them such as playing cards and food preferences. As they grow older, they are more likely to understand that animals cannot speak like humans do or play card games like humans do (Piaget & Inhelder).
In Depth Analysis of Childhood Animate Thinking
When children engage in pretend play, they are engaging in what Piaget called animism psychology. Animism psychology is the belief that inanimate objects are alive. This type of thinking is very common in young children and usually goes hand-in-hand with magical thinking. Young children have not yet learned to distinguish between animate beings (such as animals) and inanimate objects (such as toys).
So when a child interacts with an object like a teddy bear or truck, he will believe the object has feelings just like he does. For example, if a child accidentally spills his milk while playing tea party with his dollies, he might say Don’t worry! I’ll clean up for you! before giving his dollies a hug to make them feel better.
Applications to Clinical Practice, Research, and Education
Piaget’s theory of animism psychology can be applied to clinical practice, research, and education to help explain a child’s cognitive development. For example, animism can help explain why children may believe that inanimate objects are alive. Additionally, animism can help clinicians understand why some children may be afraid of the dark or of certain animals. Animism psychology can also be used to inform research on child development and to teach children about the different stages of cognitive development.
For example, teachers can use concepts from animism to help students better understand their own thoughts and feelings. When introducing the idea of animism to students, teachers might use puppets or drawings as examples so students have something concrete with which they can relate.