Anthropomorphism means attributing the characteristics of human beings to inanimate things or animals. I have invented the word “pragmamorphism” as a shorthand abstraction for the attribution of the properties of inanimate things to human beings. One of the meanings of the Greek word pragma is “a material object.”

Being pragmamorphic sounds equivalent to taking a scientific attitude toward the world, but it easily evolves into dull scientism. It’s pragmamorphic to equate material correlates with human psychological states—to equate PET scans, say, with emotion. It’s also pragmamorphic to ignore human qualities you cannot measure.

We have discovered useful metrics for material objects—length, temperature, pressure, volume, kinetic energy, etc. “Pragmamorphism” is a good word for the attempt to assign such one-dimensional thing-metrics to the mental qualities of humans. IQ, a “length scale” for intelligence, is a result of pragmamorphism. But intelligence is more diffuse than linear.


Emanuel Derman on the habit of attributing properties of inanimate things to human beings, like PET scans to emotion, or IQ to intelligence. Like making a digital representation of an analog system.

Folksonomies: cognition modeling

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Emanuel Derman:Person (0.846691 (neutral:0.000000))

Thermodynamics (0.978643): dbpedia | freebase
Psychology (0.930611): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Human (0.876441): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
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Religion (0.745593): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Meaning of life (0.740303): dbpedia | freebase | yago
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 This Will Make You Smarter
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Brockman , John (2012-02-14), This Will Make You Smarter, HarperCollins, Retrieved on 2013-12-19
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: science


    19 DEC 2013

     The Cognitive Toolbox

    Memes that would make good index cards for a box of important cognitive ideas.