To some, a car is just a car—but to others, that car is Martha and she runs like a beast. Humans have been naming their possessions forever (yes, even before Tom Hanks and his volleyball pal Wilson hit the big screen!), but have you ever questioned why? Well, there’s actually a scientific reason behind the madness.
Psychologist Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, told The Cut you might find yourself naming your car—but not your yoga mat—simply because one has a human-like feature and the other doesn’t.
“We think there are multiple reasons why this happens. Some of them have to do with just how similar some inanimate object or animal seems to a person,” Epley said. “This can sometimes be an appearance, how it behaves or acts, or any other cues or similarities that lead us to treat nonhuman agents as human-like.”
“This can sometimes be an appearance, how it behaves or acts, or any other cues or similarities that lead us to treat nonhuman agents as human-like.” —Nicholas Epley, PhD
Think about how your car’s headlights look like eyes, for example. And when you add in motion, it can make things seem even more human-like, according to a 2007 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Sure, you love your yoga mat, but it’s harder to form a connection with it because, well, it mostly just lies there on the floor. And who would want to step all over their non-living bestie every day?