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Oxytocin responses after dog and cat interactions depend on pet ownership and may affect interpersonal trust

By B. A. Curry, B. Donaldson, M. Vercoe, M. Filippo, P. J. Zaka

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Abstract

Although many of us interact daily with animals, we have lit t le understanding of how this affects our interactions with people. This study assessed the physiological effects of human-animal interactions and tested if this affected interpersonal trust. Participants (N=141) were assigned to play wit h a friendly but unfamiliar cat or dog for 10 minutes or to rest quietly in a private room. Blood was obtained from human participants before and after animal interactions or rest, and videos of animal interactions were coded for encounter styles. Participants then made interpersonal monetary decisions to quantify trust and trustworthiness towards trangers. Although oxytocin (OT) fell on average after interactions with both dogs and cats, there was a positive and significant correlation between the change in OT after interacting with a dog and lifetime pet exposure. Participants who had lived with four or more dogs in their lifetimes had a positive increase in OT after interacting with an unknown dog. We found a negative correlation between the change in OT after interacting with a cat and cat ownership. Participants who had a reduction in stress hormones after a dog interaction showed increased trust in strangers. Specifically, a one-percentage-point decrease in the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin hormone increased trust in a s tranger by 24 percent. Our findings show that the human OT response to animals depends on previous pet exposure.

Publication Title Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin
Volume 3
Issue 2
Pages 56-71
Language English
Author Address Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate University, 160 E. 10th St., Claremont, CA 91711-6165, USA.paul.zak@cgu.edu
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Tags
  1. Adolescents
  2. Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
  3. Animals
  4. APEC countries
  5. Attitudes
  6. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  7. Blood
  8. Canidae
  9. Canine
  10. Carnivores
  11. Cats
  12. Children
  13. Countries
  14. Developed countries
  15. Dogs
  16. Emotions
  17. Hormones
  18. Humans
  19. Mammals
  20. Men
  21. North America
  22. OECD countries
  23. Oxytocin
  24. peer-reviewed
  25. pet care
  26. Primates
  27. Relationships
  28. Stress
  29. Stress response
  30. United States of America
  31. vertebrates
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed