Good Dog: Aspects of Humans' Causal Attributions for a Companion Animal's Social Behavior

in Society & Animals
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Lay theories or assumptions about nonhuman animal mentality undoubtedly influence relations between people and companion animals. In two experiments respondents gave their impressions of the mental and motivational bases of companion animal social behavior through measures of causal attribution. When gauged against the matched actions of a boy, as in the first experiment, respondents attributed a dog's playing (good behavior) to internal, dispositional factors buta dog's biting (bad behavior) to external, situational factors. A second experiment that focused on a dog's bite revealed clear attributional process on the part of observers. Higher ratings of a dog as the cause of a victim's distress predicted higher ratings of a dog's guilt. Higher ratings that a dog had an excuse predicted stronger recommendations for forgiveness. Individual differences in seeing the actor as a "good dog" systematically predicted judgments of severity of the outcome and recommendations for punishment. Discussion of these attributional findings referred to tolerance for companion animal misbehavior and relinquishment decisions. This article illustrates the utility of causal attribution as a tool for the study of popular conceptions of nonhuman animal mind and behavior.

Society & Animals

Journal of Human-Animal Studies



Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 17 17 10
Full Text Views 8 8 5
PDF Downloads 4 4 0
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0