Have you ever been in a room with your beloved pet and started nattering away without a thought as to whether they can actually comprehend anything you’re saying? Yeh, me too.
Well, what about this: have you ever wondered whether it might be a bit odd, and that other people around you might be questioning your sanity to themselves? No? Me neither again.
But, fortunately, science has finally decided to back us pet owners up by declaring that we’re not crazy. In fact, it could be a sign that we’re highly intelligent. FINALLY.
It’s not as if we needed a study to determine whether we should be speaking to our pets or not, we do it anyway because it helps us to feel as though we’re on the same level as one another- in turn creating a special bond or companionship. After all they’re often our closest sidekicks, our best friends and they usually love us unconditionally no matter how much of a pain we can be.
But, it doesn’t hurt to know that we’re better off for doing it.
Talking to animals, (whatever species they may be) is called Anthropomorphism. And it’s not just limited to animals, even talking to inanimate objects like a printer when it chooses not to work properly is classified under the same banner.
What’s more is, doing this can be perceived in a positive light, even if you are getting strange looks from your colleagues while you scream bl*ody murder at the kettle for taking an age to boil for the fourth time that afternoon.
Behavioural science professor at the University of Chicago, Nicholas Epley (who happens to be an expert on anthropomorphism) recently spoke to Quartz and had this to say on the matter:
“Historically, anthropomorphizing 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. No other species has this tendency“.
Ok, so I suspect you’re looking for some clarification as to why exactly?
Well, Epley goes into further detail by stating that we ‘anthropomorphize’ the things that we’re fond of more than those we detest. In other words, the more we like something, the greater the chance we are going to engage with it. This concept crosses the boundaries of what’s actually living and what’s not.
After all, humans are very social creatures, so our brains perceive minds and identify faces everywhere we look he summaries.
Think about it, how often do you see a face on the front of a car smiling back at you, or your toilet looking shocked as you’re about to sit down?
“For centuries, our willingness to recognise minds in nonhumans has been seen as a kind of stupidity, a childlike tendency toward anthropomorphism and superstition that educated and clear-thinking adults have outgrown,” writes Epley. “I think this view is both mistaken and unfortunate. Recognising the mind of another human being involves the same psychological processes as recognising 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.”
Epley thinks that the association between anthropomorphic tendencies and social intelligence is likely strong. And, to be honest, that’s all I needed to hear to justify the 173 compliments I give my dog each and every day.
So there you have it. To summarise in a not so scientifically competent manner- it’s a social thing.
And who knows, dogs and cats might have understood us the whole time anyway. We can always hope…