It is evident from language that everyone can distinguish the living entities from the otherwise, or, rather, that there is a scale between two poles that is widely agreed upon. This observation is paralleled by hard research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Is there research that confirms (or refutes) that individuals vary in their preference for animacy?

Another way to state this question is that I am asking whether "animacy preference" is a dimension on which individuals vary.

Talia Konkle and Alfonso Caramazza — "Tripartite Organization of the Ventral Stream by Animacy and Object Size"
Rosa Salva U.Mayer G.Vallortigara — "Roots of a social brain: Developmental models of emerging animacy-detection mechanisms"
Tao Gao George E. Newman Brian J. Scholl — "The psychophysics of chasing: A case study in the perception of animacy"

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    $\begingroup$ I've edited and voted to reopen based on conversations with the OP. Although I'm not familiar with research into this specific question, I think the general interest in psychology and neuroscience for dimensionality reduction (for example, in analysis of personality) makes it a reasonable question. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Dec 20 '19 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Bryan I am still confused by the use of 'animacy' outside of a linguistic/grammatical context. For example, this word is not even in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I expect this is totally unrelated to the question and can be replaced with 'alive' vs 'object', or something similar. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Dec 20 '19 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ @StevenJeuris It's certainly used as a term in the neuroscience of perception, for examples jneurosci.org/content/33/25/10235 sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763414003546 sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010028509000188 $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Dec 20 '19 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ It's also not strictly binary, for example sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010028509000188 uses a 6-point scale $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Dec 20 '19 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Bryan Interesting. But there seems to be some ambiguity with the linguistics definition cited by the OP. Could a more neuroscientific-focused definition be included instead? Seems like the Wiki page is missing this. :) $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Dec 21 '19 at 0:03

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