Every single person who owns a pet has a specific voice they use when talking to said pet. The voice is usually exaggerated and silly and complements such literal pet phrases as “Who’s a good floofer?” or “You are the cutest little smooshington I ever smooshed.”
Despite the fact that all pet owners do these things, there’s still a stigma associated with the silliness. But as it turns out, there’s no need to hide: Talking to your pets is actually a sign of human intelligence.
According to Nicholas Epley, a behavioral science professor, anthropomorphization is “a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart.” As Epley told Quartz, “Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity. But as social beings, we’re constantly trying to decode what another being is thinking or going to do.”
Essentially, the instinct to engage is what has helped our species survive and evolve. So when you talk to your dog or cat—even though they can’t respond—you are, on a primal level, trying to decode their thoughts and assess your safety levels. (Of course, that’s all subconscious as you’re cooing, “I LOOOOVE YOU MR. CHUBBY TOCKS!!!”)
Unsurprisingly, Epley also reveals that the more we love something—and the stronger our drive for connection—the more we anthropomorphize it. (Think of Wilson from Cast Away.) According to Epley, “The more we engage with other minds, the more socially intelligent we become.” So go on and ask your four-legged friend about his day and have a full-fledged conversation: You’ll be well on your way to MENSA.
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