In short, despite the growing body of research on the bonds
between people and pets, the existence of a pet effect on
human health and happiness remains a hypothesis in need of
confirmation rather than an established fact. This conclusion
should not be taken as a condemnation of pet keeping. Indeed,
companion animals have always been part of my own life, and
I understand the joys that come with living with members of
other species. Nor am I arguing that behavioral scientists
should avoid studying the impact of animals on human health
and well-being. In fact, we need more rather than less research
on this topic.
Rozin (2006) cogently observed that in their quest to
explain general principles of behavior, psychologists have
neglected huge domains of human life such as food, work, and
religion. I would add our attitudes, behaviors, and relation
ships with other species to the list of topics that most people
find fascinating but that psychologists have for the most part
ignored. The study of our interactions with animals is interest
ing, important, and challenging. Whether, and under what cir
cumstances, pets make people happier and healthier is unclear.
It is, however, clear that animals play a role in nearly every
aspect of human psychological and cultural life. And our atti
tudes and behaviors toward and relationships with other spe
cies offer a unique window into many aspects of human nature.
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