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

money.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

More

The best possible gifts for when flowers aren’t going to cut it

17 unusual and thoughtful gifts for when the s**t hits the fan

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This Battle of the Sexes legend wants you to STOP asking about McEnroe

“I would like to see John McEnroe win a Grand Slam tournament while pregnant”

by Susan Devaney
22 Sep 2017

“The real reason we should all be upset about Uber”

Grow up: your bank balance really isn’t what’s at stake here

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

There's a huge sherbet fountain coming to London - and it's free

Bompas & Parr are planning a weird, wonderful and nostalgia-filled event

by Helen Brown
22 Sep 2017

Rick and Morty creator responds to sexist trolling of female writers

The show hired four women. Cue cries of “Worst. Episodes. Evah.”

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

Everything you need to know about Uber being banned in London

The taxi firm has had its license revoked by TfL

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

The new Baileys flavour you’ll want to drink well beyond Halloween

Perfect autumn cocktails ahead

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

Harry Potter fans, this epic Hogwarts goblet is actually magical

It's perfect for Butterbeer (or prosecco)

by Megan Murray
22 Sep 2017

The hidden meanings behind the nation’s most popular baby names

Prepare for lots of girls’ names ending in ‘a’

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017