18 Personality, Pet Ownership & Support
Based on Research by Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D. Psychology Science Minute written by Tess Whelan Hare, Radhika Krishnamurthy, Psy.D. Class
Psychology Science Minute brought to you by the School of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.
Rachel is in her first professional job. She just moved cross-country and is on her own for the first time. Her work is demanding and she feels lonely. She was surprised to read a magazine article that advised getting a dog. “A dog?” I’d just be more stressed!?
People love having pets, but what do we know about pets and pet owners from research? Psychologists at Miami University, Ohio, McConnell and colleagues, showed compelling evidence that having a pet fulfills needs of self-esteem, meaningful existence, and personal control, and in a different way from having support by people. Compared to people who don’t have pets, pet owners are less depressed, less lonely, and less stressed out. Important differences between the personalities of pet owners and non-owners were also found – pet owners’ personalities are healthier, meaning they tend to be more conscientious, more extraverted, less fearful, less preoccupied and have a more positive sense of self. The researchers also found that dog owners who were stronger on conscientious and agreeable qualities received greater fulfillment from having a dog, demonstrating a complementary relationship between personality and social need fulfillment from dog ownership.
Having a pet is likely to meet needs for social support and improve coping abilities, especially if the owner’s personality allows them to maximize these benefits. Dogs may not be just “man’s best friend”—they may be man and woman’s best medicine, too.
That’s your Florida Tech Psychology Science Minute, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.
McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. (2011). Friends With Benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(6), 1239-1252.