Love Lasts Longer With Pets in the Picture
Robbie MacDougal, Shetland Sheepdog and canine journalist, looks at research revealing that pets - and even photos of them - can improve a marriage.
A new study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense as part of the Military Research Consortium explores the role of evaluative conditioning as a path to strengthening marriages and their support systems. Why this is of interest to our understanding of the human-pet companion bond is that animals were an important part of the research.
The Association for Psychological Science reported that a group of psychological scientists, with James K. McNulty of Florida State University leading, developed a method for helping marriages that is not a surprise to me: pictures of puppies and bunnies.
Researchers brought in 144 married couples, all less than 40 years old and all married less than five years, and assessed their feelings about their spouses. They showed participants pictures of their spouses, followed by negative and positive words or images, and asked them how they felt about their partner.
Then they showed the participants a slide show once every three days for six weeks. Half were photos on a split screen with the spouse and positive images and words like incredible and wonderful. Half saw the split screen with neutral photos of things like chairs and neutral words.
Every two weeks for eight weeks the researchers measured attitudes and asked them how they felt about their spouse.
What this study measured was based on the concept of evaluative conditioning, which simply means identifying something or someone with a feeling, good or bad, that sticks with the something or someone.
You may have experienced this, for example, when you’ve eaten something, gotten sick, and forever hated that food. Another example happens when you identify a memory with a song. You hear a song, and you go back to a place or a time, maybe with a certain person.
This is where the bunnies and puppies come into the research. Hoping to retrain how spouses felt about each other, the researchers showed participants images of their spouses paired with positive words or images (the bunnies and the puppies) over a period of time. The theory was that the positive feelings would enhance positive feelings toward partners.
The intervention worked, and marital satisfaction was improved. James McNulty and his associates were a little surprised at how effective the images were. McNulty was quoted as saying, “It was like they went on 13 artificial good dates.” I am not surprised at the results — nothing is better than puppies and bunnies.
The overall takeaway is that you associate friends, spouses, siblings, and coworkers with positive and negative thoughts and experiences that will influence relationships. Let us be a part of the positives in your relationships. Not only looking at pictures of puppies and bunnies, but also having them in your life will make your relationships more satisfying.
Just another way we make your lives better! Keep your tail high and your feet dry and think aboutadopting a pet from the shelter.