Animal Studies Bibliography

Hunt, Susan J., Lynette A. Hart, and Richard Gomulkiewicz. 1992. Role of small animals in social interactions between strangers. Journal of Social Psychology 132(2): 245-57.

The role of dogs in facilitating social interaction has been well-documented, but there has not been study of whether smaller, less active animals work as social facilitators as well.

Hypotheses : The presence of an animal will result in more approaches than will the presence of a TV set, and the conversations will focus on the animal. There will be less conversation with the confederate in the presence of bubbles. Children will touch the stimulus more often than adults, and adults will converse about it more often.

Independent variables/operational definitions : 1) Type of stimulus present with confederate (college-aged woman) in park: rabbit, turtle, small TV set (turned on), or bubbles. 2) Age: child (18 and under) vs. adult

Dependent variables/operational definitions : approaching the confederate; type of conversation engaged in with confederate (number of pronouns and nouns used to refer to (a) the subject, (b) the stimulus, (c) the confederate, or (d) a parallel stimulus (e.g. similar pet at home); type of sentences: (a) personal statements about feelings, memories, or facts about self or stimulus; (b) teaching statements about how to act with stimulus or confederate; (c) questions to the confederate; or (d) exclamations of excitement; whether exclamations were the majority of a subject's sentences); touching the confederate or stimulus; smiling at the confederate or stimulus; length of time spent with confederate and stimulus

Findings : Adults and kids frequently approached the confederate with a rabbit, much more than with turtle or bubbles. Significantly more adults approached the rabbit than either the turtle, TV, or bubbles, and a large number of these adults were alone, whereas few solitary adults approached the bubbles or turtle. Median time with the confederate was up to 2 minutes. There were no notable age differences between adults who approached the rabbit, turtle, or bubbles. Kids approached the bubbles significantly more than adults did. Of all subjects, one child and no adults approached the TV, which is significantly fewer than approached the other stimuli. Kids showed no significant preference among the rabbit, turtle, and bubbles. Kids approached the turtle more than adults did. Children who were alone were most likely to go to the bubbles and less likely to go to the turtle or bubbles. Kids stayed about the same length of time as adults except for kids with others who approached bubbles; these groups stayed 10 minutes. Children who approached the bubbles seemed to be younger than those who approached the animals. Most children touched the stimuli, whereas few adults did. Adults were more likely to smile (often in response to the kids' actions) and to converse. Subjects talked mostly about the stimulus or themselves. Adults approaching the rabbit talked significantly more about the rabbit than about themselves, but otherwise adults' and kids' references did not differ. Kids often conversed about interacting with the bubbles. References to the stimulus were significantly more numerous among adults and kids than were references to the confederate or parallel stimuli. Adults conversed with more information and questions (rather than exclamations, the main conversation around bubbles) around the rabbit and turtle, with the turtle producing the most teaching statements (usually explaining to kids how the shell works, etc.). Kids showed the same pattern. Kids made more exclamations than adults around rabbits, adults made more teaching statements than kids around the turtle, and kids asked more questions than adults around bubbles. These findings support previous work suggesting the more positive attitudes in Western culture toward furry or feathered animals over reptiles and scaly ones. Animals are valuable in bringing strangers easily together into social interaction.


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