Pet Perks: An Examination and Analysis of the Relationship Between Companion Animals and the Development of Empathy
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This study investigated existing pet-owner relationships in order to determine how they influenced the development of emotional empathy in humans. A sample of 260 undergraduate students at Texas State University with an average of 20 years, consisting of mostly female (75%) participants, volunteered to participate in the Pet Perks Survey. Each participant’s degree of attachment to their pets, and their level of emotional empathy, were measured based on their responses to the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale, and the Questionnaire for the Measurement of Emotional Empathy. An additional 18 fill-in-the-blank and open-ended questions were created to examine their personal experiences with pets during childhood as well as, attitudes toward pet-ownership. The primary findings revealed that pet-owners both past and present exhibited significantly higher empathy levels than non-pet-owners. Furthermore, as suggested by previous research, the level of attachment between an individual and their pets was found to be a significant indicator of their level of emotional empathy. Overall, this study found statistically significant evidence to support the proposal that forming close personal bonds with companion animals, or pets, promotes the development of empathy.