Humans love pets like their own children and whenever they feel socially rejected or sad, just a thought or a picture of their pet can lift up their mood, a study has found, suggesting that animals have a unique ability to comfort people.
Thinking about naming a human did not produce the same effect, with the study showcasing evidence that thoughts about a pet can provide a soothing stimulus for humans.
“Those who are more predisposed to attributing entities with human-like characteristics would benefit from even the most minimal engagement with animals,” said lead study author Christina M Brown from Miami University in the US.
People who are more likely to assign human-like qualities to animals or inanimate objects may benefit from just thinking about animals when feeling socially rejected.
The team conducted three separate studies in which participants were asked to relive past experiences of social rejection.
After this, they were then asked to name photographed animals and their feelings were analysed again.
The participants who thought of names for animals reported less negative emotions and feelings of rejection than those who did not.
“Anthropomorphism may be an effective and powerful way to eradicate and combat the negative feelings that result from social rejection,” the authors noted.