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"