Thank you for completing this survey. If you are interested in hearing more about the results, please email lbower @ american.edu. Below is information on the results of the first study in this series. This poster was presented at the 25th Annual APS Convention in Washington DC in May 2013.
Please invite your friends to help further this research by sending them the link to the study: http://nextbestpet.net/research
Video Script (not transcript)
Hi, I’m Lennea Bower from American Unversity and I’m presenting my research at
Annual APS Convention. In this study, my colleagues Zehra Peynircioglu and Jordan
Wyatt, and I investigated whether the concept of magical thinking affects decisions about
The concept of magical thinking – as laid out by Rozin & Nemeroff – is that when
an object is associated with something or someone negative, the object is affected by that
negative valence, even when the negative information does not logically affect the object
in question. We wanted to see if that phenomenon extends to animate objects – such as
people and animals – because they have more intrinsic properties, like personality or
temperament that might outweigh the irrelevant negative association. And, participants
might also be affected by feelings of pity towards the animal due to its perceived
vulnerability that would not occur in decisions about objects.
In this experiment, we asked participants to look at profiles of dogs and make
judgments about how likable and adoptable they were. The variable we manipulated was
the information about the dog’s previous owner and surrender reason by giving either
negative information – the previous owner went to jail – or positive information – the
previous owner was deployed with the military. We expected that any magical thinking
would be confined to the adoptability judgment and that, because of what we’re terming
“pity effect”, participants might see dogs with “bad” previous owners as them as equally
or more likeable. However, what we actually found was that the negative previous owner
information made the dogs both less likeable and less adoptable.
One interesting subfinding is that individuals with greater familiarity with animal
shelters showed significantly less magical thinking than other participants. Overall their
ratings were not very different for dogs with negative and positive previous owner
information and, at an individual level, they were about equally likely to show pity effect as
In future research, we are looking to explore these differences more in depth by
including decisions about inanimate objects and people.