I admit it: I talk to my dog. I even have a different voice for each one. My non-animal friends think it’s silly and more than a little crazy to carry on these one-sided conversations. But Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago, disagrees. He feels it’s perfectly normal to engage in this behavior, and it may actually indicate a higher level of social cognition.

Epley is the author of Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and WantHe is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon of anthropomorphism – the tendency to assign human thoughts, feelings or characteristics to a non-human object or being.

Anthropomorphism is common in children, who are able to amuse themselves for hours on end talking to imaginary friends and toys. It’s perfectly healthy behavior, and helps them to develop the social skills they will need later in life.

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