A wildlife photographer in Botswana captured a dramatic moment on camera. In his photo, one monkey gives mouth-to-mouth to another – or so it seems. (1)
Monkey Gives Mouth-to-Mouth On Camera
Wildlife photographer William Steel was taking pictures of vervet monkeys in Botswana’s Gaborone Game Reserve when he noticed one female being, well, a little dramatic. She had flopped herself down on her back with her legs and arms extended outward. (1)
Shortly, a male monkey came along and did something Steel was not expecting: The monkey gives mouth-to-mouth to the female – or at least that’s what it looks like. (1)
The reality is actually far from the truth: The female monkey was not lacking in oxygen, but more-so attention. She put on the dramatic little show so another monkey would come over and groom her. (1)
The Not-So-Dramatic Moment
Steel says that grooming like this is a common practice among the vervet monkeys and is a form of bonding for them. (1)
“Bonds are formed largely through grooming. I have often seen this extended to help clean wounds, and even nurse injured troop members.” Steel explains. “In my opinion, this compassion can sometimes be manipulated by attention-seeking individuals. It was an amusing moment to capture.” (1)
Monkeys are very intelligent creatures and certainly possess the smarts and physical ability to do a variety of human-like acts. This, however, was no more than a theatrical cry for attention. (1)
Anthropomorphism: Did the monkey really give mouth-to-mouth?
While it is cute to think about a dramatic Gray’s Anatomy-style scene in which one monkey collapses and another monkey gives mouth-to-mouth to save her life, this is not the truth. This is called anthropomorphism: When people give human-like traits to non-humans, usually pets, animals or objects. (2)
Of course, your pet does experience human-like emotions such as excitement or happiness when you come home from work. That being said, your pets don’t understand what you are saying to them except for a few commands for which you trained them for. (2)
There are plenty of examples of anthropomorphism in literature, pop-culture, and other areas such as (2):
- The wind and sun in Aesop’s Fables
- The talking household items and dishware in Beauty and the Beast
- When we give a human-like appearance to deities or gods in mythology
- Robots or virtual assistant AI-technology like Alexa and Siri
Robots and artificial intelligence technology are some of the easiest non-human objects to do this to because they seem so real. (2)
Why Do We Do This?
People use anthropomorphism on animals and objects daily as a way for our brains to understand behaviors or events better. It can be beneficial, for example, giving our pets these qualities can help us to feel less lonely. (2)
This can also have a negative side. Sometimes, giving human attributes to something where they don’t actually exist can cause misunderstandings, particularly when it comes to animal behavior. (2)
Furthermore, there are movies such as Her, when a lonely writer develops an intense “relationship” with his home operating system. This system is designed to take care of nearly all of his needs. This movie highlights the dangers of giving non-humans, particularly AI, too many human-like attributes. (3)
So yes, it is fun and perfectly normal to imagine animals in human scenarios or imagine that Alexa really is a real woman there to make your day easier. Always remember, however, that these are your projections, and most of the time they aren’t actually real at all.