Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Do you chat to your pet? Science says it proves something incredible about you

Dogs-weimaraner.jpg

Words: Elle Griffiths

Most pet owners will relate to having a little one-way chat with their furry friend at some point. You might have caught yourself asking: ‘Did you miss me?’ when you get through the door after a day at work, or ‘How are you still hungry?’ after they’ve wolfed down a second bowl of food, or ‘Why are you incessantly miaow-ing at 4am?’

But if you’ve ever wondered if this might be a sign you're cracking up, fear not, scientists actually believe it is actually a sign of intelligence.

If you think back to childhood, it’s likely that you talked to pretty much everything. This is known as anthropomorphising – aka giving human attributes to non-human animals, plants, objects, and things. 


Read More: We prefer pets to siblings 


As it’s perceived to be a sign of immaturity in society, we train ourselves out of it as we grow up. But the urge never quite leaves us, and chatting away to animals and our pets like we know them as friends is a sign of an active imagination and intelligent personality. 

talking to cat

Behavioural Science Professor Nicholas Epsey of the University of Chicago, explained: “Historically, anthropomorphising has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet.”

Speaking to QuartzEpsey – widely believed to be the world authority on anthropomorphism – added that the phenomenon is part of a normal human drive to seek connection. 


Read More: These 1930s rules might explain why the Danes are so happy


And this drive for connection is part of the reason we analyse our pets’ “complex” mental states and read their behaviour – much in the same way as we do with our fellow humans. 

pets

Epley even cites the famous relationship between Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away and inanimate volleyball ‘Wilson’ as an example of how the need to  anthropomorphise becomes stronger and more powerful when we are lonelier and feeling isolated from human connection. 

While studies have not yet explicitly proven the link between anthropomorphic tendencies and social intelligence, Epley is confident the connection is there. 

“For centuries, our willingness to recognize minds in non-humans has been seen as a kind of stupidity, a childlike tendency toward anthropomorphism and superstition that educated and clear-thinking adults have outgrown.”

“I think this view is both mistaken and unfortunate. Recognizing the mind of another human being involves the same psychological processes as recognizing a mind in other animals, a god, or even a gadget. It is a reflection of our brain’s greatest ability rather than a sign of our stupidity.” 

Images: Rex Features/Getty

Related

mary berry wedding 2.jpeg

Mary Berry explains why she made her husband propose three times

make plan.jpg

Revealed: what you should expect to be paid based on your age

iStock-470349839.jpg

Rejoice! A mac and cheese festival is coming to Britain

Comments

More

“How Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington gave my generation a voice"

The musician leaves a lasting legacy

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Jul 2017

The grossly sexist ads we can’t believe exist in the 21st century

From a Co-op egg to that deeply offensive Protein World poster

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jul 2017

How your Love Island obsession is wreaking havoc with your health

Experts have genuinely issued a warning…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jul 2017

Boots won’t cut morning-after pill price because we can’t be trusted

Cheaper emergency contraception? Unprotected sex party at ours, everyone!

by Amy Swales
21 Jul 2017

Did Japan’s First Lady pretend not to speak English to ignore Trump?

Akie Abe, we salute you.

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Jul 2017

This 'Beer For Her' has managed to offend everyone on Twitter

Apparently womankind can only ever drink from pink receptacles

by Megan Murray
21 Jul 2017

This Instagram account is aiming to break the miscarriage taboo

Women are coming together to share their stories of loss

by Megan Murray
21 Jul 2017

Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who salary revealed after gender pay gap row

And it may surprise you…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jul 2017

Quiz: which famous duo are you and your work wife?

It’s time to find out, once and for all, who you and your work wife really are…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Jul 2017

You’ve been making your tea wrong this whole time, reveal tea experts

Wait, what?

by Jasmine Andersson
20 Jul 2017