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Students can visit the College Archives (Calvert 009-ground floor) to read or view past St. Mary's Projects Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (appointments recommended).

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Jacqueline Fullerton

Fullerton, Jacqueline. (2012, May). Companion-animal bonding and empathy development:  An investigation of the lasting influence of past dogs on empathy in a college population.
Mentor: Dr. Laraine Glidden

Abstract

This study explored the relationship between companion animal bonding and empathy to further research in the field of human-animal interactions. The companion animal bond was defined and explored in terms of: (1) saliency of effects into young adulthood, (2) pet type, (3) concurrent pet ownership, and (4) ability to activate empathy through thoughts of the bond. College-aged students (N = 83) owning a dog before the age of 16 retrospectively responded on the strength of their bond with The Dog they considered most important in their lives, as well as on the presence of other dogs in the household simultaneous with The Dog. Randomly assigned conditions (control, experimental manipulation) dictated one of two writing tasks. All participants then completed a behavioral and a self-report empathy measure. Results showed an inverse relationship between the strength of bonding and self-report empathy by gender. Stronger bonding was associated with lower empathy in females, but higher empathy in males. Owning other dogs was associated with weaker bonding in all participants and females, and higher empathy in females compared to males. Males with no other dogs reported higher empathy than those with other dogs. Future research should continue to explore the relationship between companion animal bonding and empathy by gender. Research should address: (1) the influence of specific types of pets owned, alone and with others; (2) the saliency of effects, into adulthood; and (3) quality of social interactions with other people.


Read the paper (download the pdf)