Do you ever get home after one of those days, hoping to just relax, find a kind ear and vent? If you said yes, you’re not alone, we all have those days. And, if you have a dog, you might be tempted to vent about your day with him. Don’t worry, you’re not alone when it comes to that sentiment, either. You may wonder what your pet-less friends would think if they knew that Fido was your go-to kind ear. Perhaps they’d think you aren’t the smartest cookie in the cookie jar. Well, guess what? They’d be wrong! Research has proven that people who talk to their pets are actually smarter than those who don’t.
A study published in Emotion Review focused on anthropomorphizing, which is attributing human traits, behaviors or emotions to non-humans, such as your pet. The ability to anthropomorphize is a natural behavior that makes humans uniquely intelligent. Your brain needs to work harder to identify animals as people, therefore, it means that you probably have smarter social cognition. A study by the University of Chicago backed this claim by stating that the ability to anthropomorphize is a reflection on a human brain’s greatest ability. Another study in 2011, conducted by Gary D. Sherman and Jonathan Haidt at Harvard University, actually suggested that people who prefer the company of their pets and talk to them regularly are more likely to be more intelligent than those who don’t. In this study, a group of people was shown photographs of adult animals and baby animals. Most of the people in the group stated that if they owned the baby animals they would give them a human name, use appropriate gender terminology and talk to them often. While this is the most common form of anthropomorphism, referring to our pets as our babies or any other term of endearment is also an example of the same behavior.
Furthermore, pet owners who anthropomorphize are not the only ones benefitting from this behavior. Numerous studies have proven that our pets also benefit and have been doing so for years. Our behavior leads them to learn specific words and gestures, meaning that, they, too, will become smarter. Your dog will learn to recognize when you’re sad if you cry out loud or even just make a sad face, and will exhibit signs of empathy. A study published in the Journal of Science stated that dogs mirror their owner’s emotions. If the owner is sad, their dog is likely to feel the same way. And if the owner is happy, their dog is likely to be happy, too. It will come as no surprise to dog owners everywhere that dogs have evolved to be the perfect companion.
So you need not worry the next time you have a conversation with Mimi while on your evening walk as the neighbors start whispering about you. As a matter of fact, arm yourself with some of the extensive research done on the topic of anthropomorphism and dogs, and tell your friends about the benefits of those one-sided, therapeutic conversations with your four-legged friend.