Lots of pet owners treat their furry friends just like they would an actual child. They’re part of the family, after all.
But some people who don’t have a pet might not understand or give you some major side eye—or worse, there’s those who do have a pet and don’t talk to them. But you know full on well that the cat or dog (or fish for that matter!) appreciate your chit chat.
And they probably do—but that’s not the only good news. It turns out that people who talk to their pets, or treat them like a human in any sort of way, are actually more intelligent than those who don’t.
One study published in Emotion Review focused on this act of “anthropomorphizing,” which is a fancy way of saying that you treat non-human life forms, or even intimate objects, like their human. Not only do you talk to them, you present it in a way that they have human-like traits and emotions.
So beyond just saying hello to them, this means you might talk to them like you would a family member (e.g., asking how their day was) or even celebrate their birthday.
The study found that this doesn’t make you crazy—it actually makes you pretty smart.
“Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet,” says Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago.
Basically, if you feel the need to anthropomorphize, your brain may be working harder to identify these animals or objects as people, and therefore you may have a more developed and smart social cognition.
Besides being a good thing for us humans, your pup is also benefiting from it! They’re actually totally capable of understanding the emotions you give off. And the more you do it, the more they do it.
University of Lincoln researchers looked into this and found that dogs can recognize human emotions by combining information from various senses.
“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs.,” says Dr. Kun Guo, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology. “To do so requires a system of internal categorization of emotional states. This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”
So the next time you have the urge to dress your dog up in a Halloween costume, or ask if he’s around when you’re on the phone because you want to say hi, stop worrying if other people think it’s weird. It’s totally not—and makes you that much more intelligent!
Are you someone who anthropomorphizes—whether it comes to pets or objects? Did you know it may indicate that you’re smarter?