The pet-effect in real life: the influence of companion animals on affect and selfesteem in real life

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


    Since the early 80’s many articles have been published describing the positive impact of companion
    animals on human health, termed the pet-effect. More recent research however raised doubt about
    the unequivocalness of these findings. Several studies failed to report an association between pet
    ownership and health or even reported a negative association. A possible explanation for these
    inconsistencies is that the pet-effect might not be a universal effect but is associated to specific
    contextual factors.
    This study examines the pet-effect in daily life and aims at identifying the daily life situations and
    contexts that give rise to the positive effect of companion animals. Using the Experience Sampling
    Method (ESM), a validated random signal contingent sampling technique, data is collected with high
    ecological validity. This entails data on human experiences and behavior in interaction with the daily
    environment (including companion animals) as they occur under natural circumstances. This allows
    us to study the nature of the interaction with companion animals and the effects of these interactions
    on psychosocial functioning (e.g. affect, self-esteem, social interactions) in the flow of daily life. The
    pilot study (n=21) presents a proof of concept to the utilization of the ESM in human animal interaction
    The results show that the presence of companion animals is associated with a decrease in negative
    affect (P<0.001, B=-0.17) and an increase in positive affect (P<0.001, B=0.36) as well as an increase
    in self-esteem (P<0.01, B= 0.16). There was no association between the level of interaction with the
    companion animal and affect or self-esteem, or between the level of physical contact and affect or selfesteem. This study demonstrates the feasibility of the ESM in the study of human animal interaction.
    The results are promising and indicative of a “pet-effect”. This effect however seems to be brought
    about by the presence of the companion animal and not by the activity performed with the companion
    animal or the level of physical contact
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventExploring Human-Animal Interactions : a multidisciplinary approach from behavioral and social sciences - Barcelona, Spain
    Duration: 7 Jul 201610 Jul 2016


    ConferenceExploring Human-Animal Interactions
    Internet address


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