Do We Believe That Our Pets Are Better Than the Average Pet?
Pets are very important to us. We may consider them part of the family.
Does our attachment to our pets make us feel that they have more positive
attributes than the pets of other people?
In Study 1, El-Alayli, Lystad, Webb, Hollingsworth, and Ciolli (2006) had
particpants rate their pets and the average pet on 22 personality attributes.
Some of these were positive (e.g., loyal and friendly), and some of them were
negative (e.g., lazy and mean). On the average, the participants rated their
own pets as higher on the positive attributes than the average pet. Moreover,
on the average, the participants rated their own pets as lower on the negative
attributes than the average pet.
In their second study, participants rated their own pets and the "average
person's pet" on the same 22 attributes. The findings of their secondly
replicated the above findings. Moreover, they found that this bias for
perceiving one's own pet more favorably was correlated with pet attachment.
In other words, people who were more attached to their pets were more likely
to exhibit a stronger bias in the evaluation of their pets. (1)
Imagine the implications of the findings. If your dog is running loose in the
neighborhood, you may describe him as an "explorer." However, your
neighbors may describe him as "reckless."
1. See their article for other findings.
El-Alayli, A., Lystad, A. L., Webb, S. R., Hollingsworth, S. L., & Ciolli, J.
L. (2006). Reigning cats and dogs: A pet-enhancement bias and its
link to pet attachment, pet-self similarity, self-enhancement, and
well-being. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 28, 131-143.