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A companion dog increases prosocial behavior in work groups

By S. M. Colarelli

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Although organizations use a variety of interventions to improve group functioning, getting people to work effectively with each other remains challenging. Because the presence of a dog has been shown to have positive effects on mood and dyadic interaction, we expected that the presence of a companion dog would also have positive effects on people in work groups. One reason for this is that a companion dog is likely to elevate positive emotions, which often promote prosocial behavior. In study 1 (n=120) and study 2 (n=120), participants were randomly assigned to either a dog-present or dog-absent four-person group. Three friendly companion dogs were randomly assigned to the dog-present groups; only one dog at a time was used during any given experimental session. In study 1, groups worked on an interactive problem-solving task; participants in the dog-present group displayed more verbal cohesion, physical intimacy, and cooperation. Study 2 was identical except that participants worked on a decision-making task requiring less interaction; participants in the dog-present condition displayed more verbal cohesion and physical intimacy and gave higher ratings of trustworthiness to fellow group members. In study 3, we examined behavioral indicators of positive emotions in dog-present and dog-absent groups. Naive observers (n=160) rated silent, 40-second video clips of interaction in groups where either a dog was (1) present but not visible or (2) not present. Behavior in dog-present groups was rated as more cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic, and attentive. We discuss areas for future research and implications of our findings for work and educational settings.

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Dogs
  3. Health
  4. Mammals
  5. Pets in the office
  6. Physical environment
  7. Prosocial Behavior
  8. Social Environments