This week, I was thrilled to write a guest post for Jason Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal, a blog about animal cognition, animal behavior, and the human-animal relationship hosted on the new Scientific American blog network.
The post went up on Wednesday; in it, I discuss a recent study examining the effects of pet ownership on self-esteem, happiness, and relationships with other people. Here’s a quote from the beginning, which sets up the story for the bulk of the post:
One would think that there’s a very clear tie between interpersonal relationships and the owner-pet connection. If lonely people anthropomorphize their pets, presumably as a means of coping with social isolation, then can’t we assume that the very people who derive high levels of social support from their pets are only doing so because of equally low levels of social support from the people around them?
Well, not so fast. There’s more to the story.
McConnell, A.R., Brown, C.M., Shoda, T.M., Stayton, L.E., & Martin, C.E. (2011). Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology PMID: 21728449
Epley, N., Akalis, S., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J. (2008). Creating Social Connection Through Inferential Reproduction: Loneliness and Perceived Agency in Gadgets, Gods, and Greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19 (2), 114-120 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02056.x