Anthropomorphism is the tendency to ascribe human traits to non-human entities. Emotions, capabilities and thinking minds are attributed to objects or phenomena that don't actually have these traits. Anthropomorphism is a psychological phenomenon that seems to be inherent in both Synths and every known species of sapient organics. More detailed information about anthropomorphism can be found here.
Anthropomorphism and Synths
Anthropomorphism plays a large role in the acceptance of Synths by the society they live in. It is an important aspect of their design, in that the use of abstract, cartoony faces actually helps with making them look endearing and more acceptable to organics, despite them being synthetic lifeforms. Theoretically Synths could exist without having a face that communicates emotions to the outside world, by removing the 3D Screen through which their eyes are displayed. This would lead to lower acceptance by the society surrounding them, since a lack of a display of emotions is commonly associated with machinelike behaviour. One of the core aspects of Synths is that they are inhabited by a thinking mind that feels emotions. Displaying these emotions to the outside world is one way of making it easier for other minds to anthropomorphise Synths. Other ways of achieving this are through lively, fluid body movements (as opposed to robotic, stuttering movements), vocal expressions of emotion, language and gestures.
Synths are capable of anthropomorphising objects or phenomena themselves. This most commonly happens in relation to helperbots, which are often treated as pets, or helpful friends, despite the lack of a conscious mind. Helperbots are specifically designed to be endearing and friendly in their appearance. Their ability to react to situations around them and to show emotions through their reactions are what makes it easy to anthropomorphise them.
Avoiding the Uncanny Valley
The Uncanny Valley is a phenomenon that occurs when a robot, doll or other kind of replica is close to looking or behaving human, but not quite close enough. The effect is that the replica appears off-putting and "creepy". This is a problem very common in the field of robotics, but is easily avoidable by simply not attempting to replicate a human or any organic's likeness. Synths, for example, don't attempt to look like perfect replicas of any particular species. Their visors display abstract, cartoony faces, rather than realistic, animatronic faces and one of the results is that the Uncanny Valley, as a problem to get around with more intricate design, is not encountered.
Examples of Anthropomorphism
You may have come across some of these examples yourself.
- Objects being given a gender, like ships, spaceships, etc. ("She is the best ship I ever served on.")
- Objects or concepts being given gendered roles or traits, like "Mother Earth" or "Lady Luck"
- Stubbing your toe on an object and cursing at the objects, as if it could hear you
- Imagining that your roomba is "eating" dirt off your floor, then telling it that it is doing a good job and that it is a "good boy"
- Cursing at a video game and blaming it for being unfair towards you
- Having feelings for fictional characters