Recognizing the importance of evolutionary parallels between humans and other animals, researchers make use of animals to better the understanding of people in various fields of study, such as history, ecology, medicine, psychology, and sociology (Levinson, 1978). Boris Levinson (1962) was an early advocate for the inclusion of pets in psychotherapeutic intervention. His theories have been frequently cited in research that has attempted to define the possible benefits associated with utilizing pets as an adjunct in the treatment of disturbed populations. The results of studies with varied populations indicate that a pet's presences can lower a person's anxiety level, positively increase self-concept, stimulate social interaction, provide a source of non-threatening acceptance, improve the prognosis for cardiac patients, and encourage goal-oriented behavior. However, few empirical studies have been conducted to explain the mechanisms responsible for the healthy benefits that have been associated with pet facilitated therapy.
The goal of this study was to further identify the variables present in person-pet interactions that are desirable in therapeutic processes. Thirty undergraduate students were recruited to participate in a 30 minute simulated clinical interview. It was hypothesized that the 15 subjects in he dog-present experimental group would show significantly lower situational anxiety compared to the 15 subjects experiencing a dog-absent interview. It was also hypothesized that there would be temporal decreases in anxiety for the experimental group, and a greater degree of favorableness felt towards pets. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, et al. 1983), The Pet Attitude Scale (Templer, 1981) and behavioral measures were used to test the hypotheses. Results indicated that the dog's presence had no significant effect upon anxiety, and there were no significant changes in pet attitude. Both groups showed a consistent and significant decrease between pre- and post-interview scores measuring State and Trait Anxiety. the results of this study suggest that pet facilitated therapy has limited applicability with a college population that is typically well adjusted and high functioning. It was suggested that the subjects recruited for this study may not have had a need to utilize the dog's presence for anxiety reduction as might a clinical population.
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Blau, Burton I.
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Arts and Sciences
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Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Weigand, Kenneth G., "The Effect of a Pet's Presence Upon Anxiety During a Simulated Clinical Interview" (1990). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 4093.