Pets Are People, Too

How pets relieve loneliness.

Posted Feb 01, 2008

I admit that I look upon rats sprinting through the subway tracks with much more affection now, thanks to Ratatouille's endearing hero. A new study shows that anthropomorphism, projecting human qualities on non-humans, can do much more than reduce commuter disgust levels—it can relieve the pain of loneliness.

Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago found that those who lack connections with other people are more likely to project qualities such as thoughtfulness and compassion on their furry friends. Once humanized, their pets can bring them some of the same psychological benefits that come from ties to other people.

If pet-naming trends are any clue, perhaps we're all getting lonelier: As we reported in PT, Lassies and Ladys are getting replaced with suspiciously kid-sounding names such as Mollie and Max.

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