Research in Science Education

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 291–311 | Cite as

Anthropomorphism and Animism in Early Years Science: Why Teachers Use Them, how They Conceptualise Them and What Are Their Views on Their Use

  • Maria Kallery
  • Dimitris Psillos


There is considerable evidence that use of anthropomorphism and animism in science teaching is a common practice in all grades of education. However, not much is known about teachers' own views on the real reasons why they have been using animistic and anthropomorphic formulations or on the issue of whether animism and anthropomorphism should or should not be used in science. The present work, which was carried out in Greece, investigates early years teachers' views on the use of animism and anthropomorphism and on the reasons behind their use of these formulations. The study was designed as a small-scale exploration study. Research data were obtained from recorded group interviews and from written tasks. Results indicate that early years teachers seem to adopt the view that animism and anthropomorphism in early years science can cause cognitive problems in young children, and also that these teachers believe that in special cases use of animism and anthropomorphism can cause emotional problems as well. Results also reveal that, despite their reservations, teachers use animism and anthropomorphism both consciously and unconsciously and that they attribute their conscious use of these formulations to their low levels of content and pedagogical content knowledge in science.

animism in science anthropomorphism in science early years science metaphors in science personification in science teachers' knowledge in science teachers' personification teachers' views on anthropomorphism 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bell, C. R. (1954). Additional data on animistic thinking. Scientific Monthly, 79, 67–69.Google Scholar
  2. Carey, S. (1985). Conceptual change in childhood. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cohen, L., & Manion, L. (1997). Research methods of education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Crannell, C. N. (1954). Responses of college students to a questionnaire on animistic thinking. Scientific Monthly, 78, 54–56.Google Scholar
  5. Crowell, D. H., & Dole, A. A. (1957). Animism and college students. Journal of Educational Research, 50, 391–395.Google Scholar
  6. Dennis, W. (1953). Animistic thinking among college and university students. Scientific Monthly, 76, 247–249.Google Scholar
  7. Dennis, W. (1957). Animistic thinking among college and high school students in the Near East. Journal of Educational Psychology, 48, 193–198.Google Scholar
  8. Duit, R. (1991). On the role of analogies and metaphors in learning science. Science Education, 75(6), 649–672.Google Scholar
  9. Friedler, Y., Zohar, A., & Tamir, P. (1993). The effect of age and of learning on the ability to distinguish between anthropomorphic and teleological explanations. International Journal of Science Education, 15(4), 439–443.Google Scholar
  10. Gallant, R. A. (1981). Pitfalls of personification. Science and Children, 19(2), 16–17.Google Scholar
  11. Glynn, S. M., Britton, B. K., Semrud-Clikeman, M., & Muth, K. D. (1989). Analogical reasoning and problem solving in science textbooks. In J. A. Glover, R. R. Ronning, & C. R. Reynolds (Eds.), A handbook of creativity: Assessment, research and theory. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  12. Hampel, C. (1965). Aspects of scientific explanations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Howard, R. (1989). Teaching science with metaphors. School Science Review, 70(252), 100–103.Google Scholar
  14. Hughes, A. (1973). Anthropomorphism, teleology, animism, and personification-why they should be avoided. Science and Children, 10, 10–11Google Scholar
  15. Inagaki, K., & Hatano, G. (1987). Young children's spontaneous personification as analogy. Child Development, 58, 1013–1020.Google Scholar
  16. Kallery, M. (2001). Early-years educators' attitudes to science and pseudo-science: The case of astronomy and astrology. European Journal of Teacher Education, 24(3), 329–342.Google Scholar
  17. Kallery, M., & Psillos, D. (2001). Preschool teachers' content knowledge in science: Their understanding of elementary science concepts and of issues raised by children's questions. International Journal of Early Years Education, 9(3), 165–179.Google Scholar
  18. Kallery, M., & Psillos, D. (2002). What happens in the early years science classroom? The reality of teachers curriculum implementation activities. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 10(2), 49–61.Google Scholar
  19. Lemke, J. L. (1990). Thinking science: Language learning and values. Norwood, MA: Ablex.Google Scholar
  20. Lowrie, D. E. (1954). Additional data on animistic thinking, Scientific Monthly, 79, 69–70.Google Scholar
  21. Looft, W. R., & Bartz, H. (1969). Animism revived. Psychological Bulletin, 71(1), 1–19.Google Scholar
  22. Papalia-Finlay, D. E. (1978). The life concept in female college students: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 7(2), 133–139.Google Scholar
  23. Piaget, J. (1951). The child's conception of the world. Savage, MD: Littlefield Adams.Google Scholar
  24. Sharefkin, B., & Ruchlis, H. (1974). Anthropomorphismin the lower grades. Science and Children, 11(6), 37–40.Google Scholar
  25. Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4–14.Google Scholar
  26. Simmons, A. J., & Goss, A. E. (1957). Animistic responses as a function of sentence contexts and instructions. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 91, 181–189.Google Scholar
  27. Taber, K. S. (1995). An analogy for discussing progression in learning chemistry. School Science Review, 76(276), 91–95.Google Scholar
  28. Taber, K. S., & Watts, M. (1996). The secret life of the chemical bond: Students' anthropomorphic and animistic references to bonding. International Journal of Science Education, 18(5), 557–568.Google Scholar
  29. Tamir, P., & Zohar, A. (1991). Anthropomorphism and teleology in reasoning about biological phenomena. Science Education, 75(1), 57–67.Google Scholar
  30. Treagust, D. F., & Harrison, A. G. (2000). In search of explanatory frameworks: An analysis of Richard Feynman's lecture 'Atoms in motion.' International Journal of Science Education, 22(11), 1157–1170.Google Scholar
  31. Watts, M., & Bentley, D. (1994). Humanizing and feminising school science: reviving anthropomorphic and animistic thinking in constructivist science education. International Journal of Science Education, 16(1), 83–97.Google Scholar
  32. Zohar, A, & Ginossar, S. (1998). Lifting the taboo regarding teleology and anthropomorphism in biology education-heretical suggestions. Science Education, 82(6), 679–697.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Kallery
    • 1
  • Dimitris Psillos
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationAristotle University of ThessalonikiGreece

Personalised recommendations