Archer Why Do People Love Their Pets 19

Topics: Pet, Attachment theory, Human Pages: 23 (12386 words) Published: December 4, 2014
ELSEVIER

Why Do People Love Their Pets?
John Archer
Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom

The evidence that people form strong attachments with their pets is briefly reviewed before identifying the characteristics of such relationships, which include pets being a source of security as well as the objects of caregiving. In evolutionary terms, pet ownership poses a problem, since attachment and devoting resources to another species are, in theory, fitness-reducing. Three attempts to account for pet keeping are discussed, as are the problems with these views. Pet keeping is placed into the context of other forms of interspecific associations. From this, an alternative Darwinian explanation is proposed: pets are viewed as manipulating human responses that had evolved to facilitate human relationships, primarily (but not exclusively) those between parent and child. The precise mechanisms that enable pets to elicit caregiving from humans are elaborated. They involve features that provide the initial attraction, such as neotenous characteristics, and those that enable the human owner to derive continuing satisfaction from interacting with the pet, such as the attribution of mental processes to human-like organisms. These mechanisms can, in some circumstances, cause pet owners to derive more satisfaction from their pet relationship than those with humans, because they supply a type of unconditional relationship that is usually absent from those with other human beings. © 1997 Elsevier Science Inc.

KEY WORDS: Attachment; Baby features; Evolutionary arms race; Manipulation; Pets; Social parasitism; Releasers.

p

et ownership is a very common human activity, and people lavish much affection and money on their pets. From a Darwinian perspective, it is a puzzling form of behavior, as it entails provisioning a member of another species, in return for which there are no apparent benefits connected to fitness. In this article, I first briefly review the evidence for the existence of strong attachments between people and their pets and discuss what forms these attachments take. I shall concentrate on cats and dogs, these being the most commonly owned

Received March 22, 1996; revisedDecember 17, 1996.
Address reprint requests and correspondenceto: John Archer, Departmentof Psychology, Universityof Central Lancashire,Preston, PR1 2HE, Lancashire,UK.
Evolutionand HumanBehavior 18:237-259 (1997)
© 1997 ElsevierScienceInc. All rights reserved.
655 Avenueof the Americas, New York, NY 10010

0162-3095/97/$17.00
PII S0162-3095(97)00004-6

238

J. Archer

pets in the western world. Historically, they are also those with which humans interact most closely, as they are allowed to run freely in people's homes. I then outline why pet ownership poses an evolutionary problem and examine three attempts to account for it: these are the view that strong attachment to a pet indicates a poor capacity for human relationships, that it results from modern living conditions, particularly affluence, and that pet ownership confers benefits for health and psychological well-being. I shall argue that none of these provides a satisfactory explanation for the evolution of pet ownership, and I then consider the possibility that pets are, in evolutionary terms, manipulating human responses, that they are the equivalent of social parasites. I conclude that this is the most likely explanation, rather than some form of mutual benefit. The precise human mechanisms that allow them to be manipulated in this way are then discussed: they include both features that provide the initial attraction to the animal, and continuing features of the interaction with the pet that prove satisfying for the owner. The existence of such mechanisms, which have all evolved to enhance fitness within the context of human-human interactions, can, in some circumstances, lead to pet owners obtaining more satisfaction from...

References: Ainsworth, M.D.S. Attachments beyond infancy. American Psychologist 44:709-716, 1989.
Albert, A., and Bulcrofi, K. Pets and urban life. Anthrozoos 1:9-25, 1987.
Anderson, W.P. Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The Medical Journal of Australia 157:298-301, 1992.
Anderson, W.P., Reid, C.M., and Jennings, G.L. Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference on Human Animal Interactions. ANIMALS & US, Montreal, 1992.
Archer, J. Animals Under Stress, London: Edward Arnold, 1979.
Archer, J. The sociobiology of bereavement: A reply to Littlefield and Rushton. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology 55:272-278, 1988.
Archer, J. Ethology and Human Development, Hemel Hempstead, UK: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992.
Archer, J. Attitudes to homosexuals: An alternative Darwinian view. Ethology and Sociology 17:275280, 1996.
85:259-271, 1994.
Baron-Cohen, S. The theory of mind hypothesis of autism: History and prospects of the idea. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society 5:9-12, 1992.
Bergler, R. The contribution of dogs to avoiding and overcoming everyday stress factors. Paper presented
at the 6th International Conference on Human Animal Interactions, ANIMALS & US, Montreal, 1992.
Bergler, R., and Loewy, D. Singles and their cats. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference on
Human Animal Interactions, ANIMALS & US, Montreal, 1992.
New York and London: Guilford Press, 1994, pp. 3-28.
Berryman, J.C., Howells, K., and Lloyd-Evans, M. Pet owner attitudes to pets and people: A psychological study. The Veterinary Record 117:659-661, 1985.
Bowlby, J. Attachment and Loss, Volume 1. Attachment, London: The Hogarth Press and Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1969 (Penguin edition, 1971).
Bowlby, J. Attachment and Loss, Volume 2. Separation: Anxiety and Anger, London: The Hogarth Press
and Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1973 (Penguin edition, 1975).
Cameron, P., and Mattson, M. Psychological correlates of pet ownership. Psychological Reports 30:286, 1972.
Carmack, J. The effects on family members and functioning after death of a pet. Marriage and Family
Reviews 8:149-161, 1985.
Churcher, P.B., and Lawton, J.H. Predation by domestic cats in an English village. Journal of Zoology
(London) 212:439-455, 1987.
Davies, N.B., and Brooke, M. Cuckoos versus reed warblers: Adaptations and counteradaptations. Animal Behaviour 36:262-284, 1988.
Dawkins, R., and Krebs, J.R. Arms races between and within species. Proceedings of the Royal Society of
London B 205:489-511, 1979.
Diamond, J. The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, London: Radius Books, 1991.
Drake-Hurst, E. The grieving process and the loss of a beloved pet: A study of clinical relevance. Dissertation Abstracts International 5 ! :5025-B, 1991.
Endenburg, N. The attachment of people to companion animals. Anthrozoos 8:83-89, 1995.
Freedland, J. Pets best interests are a dog 's breakfast for divorce judges. The Guardian 23 August, p. 9, 1994.
171:461-465, 1983.
Gage, M.G., and Holcomb, R. Couple 's perception of stressfulness of death of the family pet. Family Relations 40:103-105, 1991.
Gerwolls, M.K., and Labott, S.M. Adjustment to the death of a companion animal. Anthrozoos 7:172187, 1994.
Goldberg, D., and Williams, P. A User 's Guide to the General Health Questionnaire, Windsor (U.K.):
NFER-Nelson, 1978.
Gosse, G.H. Factors associated with the human grief experience as a result of the death of a pet. Dissertation Abstracts International 49:5001 l-B, 1989.
Gosse, G.H. amd Barnes, M.J. Human grief resulting from death of a pet. Anthrozoos 7:103-112, 1994.
Gould, S.J. The PandaX" Thumb, New York: W.W. Norton, 1980 11983 edition published by Penguin,
Harmondsworth).
Graves, D. Helpline for grieving pet owners. The Daily 7i,legraph 9 April, p. 7, 1994.
Haddon, C. Pets: Thanks for the memory. The Daily Telegraph: The Weekend Telegraph 28 May, p. 4, 1994.
Hazan C., and Shaver, P. Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal qfPersonulity
and Social Psychology 52:511-524, 1987.
Hickrod, L.J.H., and Schmitt, R.L. A naturalistic study of interaction and frame: The pet as "family member." Urban Lifo 11:55-77, 1982.
Hinde, R.A. Ethology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Hinde, R.A., and Barden, L.A. The evolution of the teddy bear. Animal Behaviour 33:137 I-1373. 1985.
Hirsh-Pasek, K., and Treiman, R. Doggerel: Motherese in a new context. Journal ~?f"Child Language
9:229-237, 1982.
Hyde, K.R., Kurdek, L., and Larson, P. Relationship between pet ownership and seltZesteem, social sensitivity and interpersonal trust, Psychological Reports 52:110, 1983.
Joubert, C.E. Pet ownership, social interest and sociability. Psychologieal Reports 61:401-41)2, 1987.
Katcher, A.H., Friedmann, E. Goodman, M., and Goodman, L. Men, women, and dogs. Calitbmian Veterinarian 2:14-16, 1983.
Keddie, K.M.G. Pathological mourning after the death of a domestic pet. British Journal qf Psychiato"
131:21-25, 1977.
Keillor, G. We are Still Married. New York: Viking Penguin, 1989.
Kidd, A.H., and Feldman, B.M. Pet ownership and sell-perceptions of older people. Psychological Reports 48:867-875, 1981.
Lago, D., Kafer, R., Delaney, M., and Connell, C. Assessment of favorable attitudes toward pets: Development and preliminary validation of self-report pet relationship scales. Anthn)zoos 1:240-254, 1988.
Laungani, P. Patterns of bereavement in Indian and English society. Paper presented at the Fourth International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Soceity, Stockholm, June 1216, 1994.
Levinson, B.M. The dog as a "co-therapist." Mental Hygiene 46:59-65, 1962.
Lombardo, W.K., Cretser, G.A., Lombardo, B., and Mathis, S.L. Fer cryin ' out loud--There is a sex difference. Sex Roles 9:987-995, 1983.
Lorenz, K. Die angeborenen Formen moglicher Effahrung. Zeitschrififi~r Tierpsychologie 5:235-409, 1943.
Lorenz, K. Studies in Animal and Human Behaviour, Volume 1 (R. Martin, Trans.), London: Methuen, 1970.
Lorenz, K. Studies in Animal and Human Behaviour, Volume H, (R. Martin, Trans.), London: Methuen, 1971.
Lysons, A. On grooming--physiological effects of interacting with pets. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference on Human Animal Interactions, ANIMALS & US, Montreal, 1992.
Messent, P.R., and Serpell, J.A. An historical and biological view of the pet-owner bond. In Interrelations Between People and Pets, B. Fogle (Ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1981, pp.
Musil, R. Domestication of the dog already in the Magdalenian. Anthropologie 8:87-88, 1970.
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Why Do People Fall in Love Essay
  • Why Do People Keep Pets Essay
  • Why Do People Fall in Love Essay
  • Why do people conform? Essay
  • Why Do People Lie Essay
  • Why Do People Work Essay
  • Why Do People Conform? Essay
  • Why Do People Migrate? Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free