Ever catch yourself chatting up a dog or cat with no regard whatsoever to the fact that they aren’t exactly fluent English speakers? Well, if so then science has good news for you! According to Nicholas Epley, a behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago, having conversations with your pet isn’t nearly as batty as some may think and is actually a sign of higher creativity and intelligence.
Epley explains that what we’re doing when we ask our dogs to be good or tell our cats how pretty they are, is something called “anthropomorphising.” He explains that this is actually "a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet."
Eply explains that while many people tend to fear that anthropomorphising will make them look crazy to their peers, it’s something that humans do on a regular basis and that may even extend to inanimate objects. Ever name a beloved car or even begged it to start when it’s misbehaving? Eply explains that we often employ such behavior with “…items that we develop special relationships with and consider extensions of our own identities,"
So why exactly do we do it? Well according to Eply, there are several reasons.
One is related to our instinct as humans to try and decode what others are thinking. As anyone who has ever owned a cat probably knows, the instinct to try and figure out what’s going on behind in that furry little brain when kitty decides to knock a random object off a table is just to delightful to resist.
Another reason he sites is that we tend to anthropomorphize things that we like so that we can become friends with them. So by interacting with your dog, cat, or any other animal, we make ourselves feel more connected to them and bond with them on a deeper level.
But are our adorable conversations with Fluffy and Fido actually one sided in reality? According to experts, not necessarily. While animals may not understand each and every word of a heartfelt talk, they can definitely understand the intention and feeling that the words convey.
Therapist Tiffany Craig regularly uses her dog as part of her therapy sessions and even notes that often clients have an easier time opening up to him than they do to her. Why is it that animals tend to make such great conversation partners?
Because as Craig explains, "They're responding to your body posture; they're responding to your energy; they're responding to your hand gestures; they're responding to your space. They're picking up all of those cues. Even if they have no idea what you are saying, they know there's an important exchange going on, and they know they're part of it."
Another great benefit of talking things out with your pet goes back to some of the things they don’t do.
"Dogs never say stupid stuff," Craig says. "Dogs never invalidate your feelings; they don't tell you you're crazy; they don't judge you."
So the next time you feel like opening up to your own little furball, knock yourself out. Not only are they there to connect with you in the beautiful way only animals can, rest assured that they understand not necessarily your words, but all the important things they’re trying to convey.
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