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Humanizing the coronavirus as an invisible enemy is human nature

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23.05.2020

President Donald Trump has called the coronavirus an “invisible enemy” that’s “brilliant” and “tough and smart,” adding that we are “tougher and smarter.”

CNN host Chris Cuomo, recovering from the virus, attributed malicious intent to it, saying it “wants us to lay down.” He warned his audience not to cooperate.

Other people called the coronavirus “sneaky,” “tricky,” “merciless,” “cruel” and “vicious.” One reporter wrote that in a nursing home, the virus “found” the people who were most frail.

Speaking of the coronavirus as if it were a person, then, is common. But why do we all do it, despite knowing that the virus is just a tiny bundle of inanimate genetic material?

As cognitive scientists who study the human mind we suggest that this tendency to see human features everywhere is an innate human characteristic, one that automatically alerts you to signs of other people – and helps you make sense of a confusing world.

Attributing human characteristics to nonhuman things and events is called anthropomorphism or personification. Philosophers and psychologists suggest that it is a human universal, found among all of us,........

© The Conversation