For those that don’t have pets in their lif,e it may come across as a little weird, but I’m sure that my fellow pet owners will agree with me when I say most, if not all, pet owners have talked to our pets at one time or another in our lives. In fact, many of us carry on regular conversations. Good news! Experts recently revealed that talking to our pets is actually a sign of intelligence!
That’s right, you aren’t just the crazy cat lady, slowly losing your mind home alone with your 12 cats. Okay, maybe you are – BUT science is giving you a really good reason to give into your whims.
Anthropomorphism refers to the act of attributing human qualities or characteristics to non-humans. This includes inanimate objects like your ‘stubborn car’ or ‘lazy computer’, as well as applying these characteristics to other animals like your dog or cat. When we are talking to our cat, we are treating them as though they have the ability to converse with us and reason with our way of thinking, human traits.
The conversation was recently brought to light by Dr. Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago and an expert in anthropomorphism. “Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural by-product of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet,” Epley explains. “No other species has this tendency.”
Whether you are speaking with your pets, your houseplants or your television when it isn’t working the way you’d like it to, you are demonstrating just how highly intellectual you are. Furthermore, it actually extends beyond just talking to your pet. If you are giving your pet traditionally ‘human’ names or nicknames, referring to them as ‘baby’ or ‘good girl’, these are also signs of that intelligence coming through.
Considering the trends in the pet industry today, one has to wonder just how intelligent we apparently are as a nation! In fact, in 2017 pet owners sunk over $69 billion into the U.S. pet industry, and that number is projected to rise to over $72 billion in 2018. With everything from clothing to strollers, pet specific furniture to spa treatments – the human qualities we attribute to our pets extends far past just cute nicknames and casual conversations.
“For centuries, our willingness to recognize minds in nonhumans has been seen as a kind of stupidity, a childlike tendency toward anthropomorphism and superstition that educated and clear-thinking adults have outgrown,” Epley went on to state. “I think this view is both mistaken and unfortunate. Recognizing the mind of another human being involves the same psychological processes as recognizing a mind in other animals, a god, or even a gadget. It is a reflection of our brain’s greatest ability rather than a sign of our stupidity.”
Next time someone looks at you weird for having a conversation with Fido, simply smile. After all, it’s not your fault that you’re more intelligent…