Presentation Title

Investigating the Relationship between Empathy, Reading of Facial Expressions, and Experience with Pets

Presenter Information

Paige PhillipsFollow

Advisor Information

Rosemary Strasser

Location

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Presentation Type

Poster

Start Date

2-3-2018 2:15 PM

End Date

2-3-2018 3:30 PM

Abstract

Empathy is a vital component of social functioning, and research has shown that human-animal interaction assists in human development of empathy. Empathy for animals is related to empathy for humans, and has been reported to be higher among people who had pets as children and who currently own pets. The present study assessed the relationships between empathy for animals and young adults’ ability to interpret the emotional states of dogs based on their facial expressions. A sample of 298 university students completed questionnaires measuring animal and human empathy, attachment to pets, and attitude toward pets. They were shown photos of human and dog faces and asked to assess the emotional state of each individual in that image by selecting an adjective that best described the expression (i.e., happy, sad, surprise, anger, fear, disgust). Statistical analyses indicated a positive correlation between individuals’ empathy scores and their attitudes and attachments towards pets, but not with their empathy towards animals. Individuals with higher pet attitude scores were better at reading anger in humans’ facial expressions, and fear and surprise in dogs’ facial expressions. Participants that owned either dogs or cats as children reported higher attachments and attitudes towards pets. However, participants that owned cats as children also reported higher levels of empathy towards animals and performed better at distinguishing human facial expressions than individuals who did not own cats as children. Cumulatively, these findings suggest that human-animal interactions have intriguing and complex relationships with empathy, social interactions, and pet attachment.

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Mar 2nd, 2:15 PM Mar 2nd, 3:30 PM

Investigating the Relationship between Empathy, Reading of Facial Expressions, and Experience with Pets

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Empathy is a vital component of social functioning, and research has shown that human-animal interaction assists in human development of empathy. Empathy for animals is related to empathy for humans, and has been reported to be higher among people who had pets as children and who currently own pets. The present study assessed the relationships between empathy for animals and young adults’ ability to interpret the emotional states of dogs based on their facial expressions. A sample of 298 university students completed questionnaires measuring animal and human empathy, attachment to pets, and attitude toward pets. They were shown photos of human and dog faces and asked to assess the emotional state of each individual in that image by selecting an adjective that best described the expression (i.e., happy, sad, surprise, anger, fear, disgust). Statistical analyses indicated a positive correlation between individuals’ empathy scores and their attitudes and attachments towards pets, but not with their empathy towards animals. Individuals with higher pet attitude scores were better at reading anger in humans’ facial expressions, and fear and surprise in dogs’ facial expressions. Participants that owned either dogs or cats as children reported higher attachments and attitudes towards pets. However, participants that owned cats as children also reported higher levels of empathy towards animals and performed better at distinguishing human facial expressions than individuals who did not own cats as children. Cumulatively, these findings suggest that human-animal interactions have intriguing and complex relationships with empathy, social interactions, and pet attachment.