Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Animism is the view that everything in the universe has some kind of psychological being somewhat similar to humans (and other animals).

explanatory context

Thus an object is not just an aggregate of molecules (on the move) but has some kind of ‘awareness’ of other objects and forces acting on it.


Animism has been defined as a religion, which is based on the belief that spirits and ghosts inhabit sacred objects such as trees and rocks.


The term animism is usually reserved for the subjects of anthropological enquiry (once referred to as ‘primitive peoples’) who hold such views. Philosophers with such views are usually described as panpsychists.

analytical review

Elwell's Glossary of Sociology (undated) defines animism as:

A type of religion that believes that events in the world are often caused by the activities of spirits.

associated issues


related areas


Elwell's Glossary of Sociology, undated, available at, page not available 20 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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