What pet owner doesn’t talk to his or her pets? Pets, especially us dogs, have long served as audiences for your stories and the keepers of your secrets. We’re the only ones who truly know your love of chocolate ice cream or how you really feel about that guy at work. Best of all, when you want to vent, we don’t offer unwanted advice; we just listen.
You might think that talking to pets is crazy, and may sometimes wonder about your own sanity, but Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago, says not to. In fact, he believes that it may actually indicate a high level of social intelligence. Here are five reasons why you’re not crazy for talking to pets.
1. It’s normal
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Epley is one of the world’s leading experts on anthropomorphism, which is a fancy term for the tendency to assign human thoughts, feelings or characteristics to a non-human object or being. Children do this a lot. Like a pup with the world’s best chew toy, they can amuse themselves for hours talking to toys or imaginary friends. Epley says that this tendency is perfectly normal and healthy, and actually helps children develop social skills they’ll need later on in life. Hooman adults tend to grow out of this tendency as they get older, but Epley says, rather than being a mark of mental instability, talking to pets is actually a mark of a well-adjusted hooman.
2. It’s your brain’s greatest ability
As Epley wrote in his book, “Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, And Want”, the hooman tendency to anthropomorphize is actually proof of just how awesome your brain is.
“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,” he writes in his book. “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.”
Us dogs have always known that you hoomans were the smartest, best and most amazing, and this just goes to show that we’ve been right all along!
3. It’s a survival thing
The hooman brain is constantly searching the faces and eyes of others for clues about their true nature and intentions. Epley says that hoomans are “hypersensitive to eyes because they offer a window into another person’s mind.” The desire to make social connections is part of the reason why hoomans have survived and thrived the way they have. And since pets play such a big part in your life, and we’re tooootally trustworthy, it just makes sense that you would want to make social connections with us. There’s nothing crazy about that!
4. It can help you
You may not be able to hear us reply, but talking your problems over in our presence helps you look at the situation objectively, consider all the facts and work your way toward a solution. In fact, therapists often use dogs to help hoomans cope with difficult situations. Children sometimes feel more comfortable telling their stories to a dog rather than to an adult, and hoomans who have suffered trauma may find a dog’s listening skills comforting. The benefits of a nonjudgmental audience are paw-sitively amazing!
5. It may not be that different than talking to a human
Scientists haven’t been able to prove that animals have conscious minds similar to a hoomans, but anyone who has spent enough time around us already knows that we do. So, you can call it anthropomorphism if you want, but I prefer to call it talking to a friend – man’s best friend!
In short, the ability to recognize pets as beings you can trust and interact with is actually a sign of social intelligence. So, you are crazy. Crazy smart, that is! If you don’t believe me, just ask your dog.