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Robert W. Mitchell
Mark Hamm and Robert W. Mitchell
A perennial problem in the study of behavior has been the basis for anthropomorphic psychological terminology. Research has suggested that people use a nonhuman animal's perceived similarity to humans based on physical likeness, familiarity, phylogeny, and/or cultural stereotype to characterize it psychologically. One further hypothesis is that people use an animal's behavior-in-context to determine its psychological characterization. These diverse hypotheses were evaluated by providing undergraduates with narratives depicting mammalian (including human) behavior suggestive of jealousy or deception, and asking them to evaluate their degree of agreement or disagreement with particular psychological characterizations of the animal described. Narratives varied the species, the context in which a mammal's behavior occurred, and how strongly it was emphasized that the narrative was about a nonhuman (or human) organism. Species varied in their physical similarity, phylogenetic closeness or familiarity to humans, and/or cultural stereotype as human-like; behavior remained constant in all narratives. In general, variations in the context in which behavior occurred influenced psychological characterization, but variations in species and emphasis did not: psychological characterizations of all species were almost always similar. Nonscientists (and some scientists as well) apparently use a mammal's behavior-in-context (whether human or not) as evidence of its psychological nature, regardless of the mammal's physical similarity, familiarity, or phylogenetic closeness to humans, or the mammal's cultural stereotype; psychological terms are not used specifically for humans, but rather are depictive of behavior-in-context. Psychological terms set the stage for further investigation into an organism's psychological abilities; calling such terms 'anthropomorphic' inaccurately implies that they are extrapolated from human behavior, when they appear to be applicable to particular behavior-in-context, independent of the species behaving.
Robert W. Mitchell and Elizabeth Edmonson
This study describes people's repetitive talk when playing with dogs and explores three hypotheses about that talk. Each of 23 people played with two dogs (one familiar, one unfamiliar). Videorecorded participants spoke about 208 words per interaction. Of all words used, eight accounted for more than 50%. Phrases most frequently used and repeated were "come on" and "come here. " In decreasing order of frequency, sentences ranged from imperatives to attention-getting devices, declaratives about the dogs, and questions. Additional declaratives and talk for the dog rarely occurred. Data support the conclusion that repetitive talk to dogs during play has some conversational aspects, but mostly attempts to control the dog. Little evidence exists for "on-line" planning in talk to dogs.
Rosanne Lorden, Richard Sambrook and Robert W. Mitchell
This study examined knowledge of sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) for both residents and tourists on San Cristóbal Island in the Galápagos, a famous nature tourism destination. Participants (N = 281) obtained through convenience and snowball sampling answered questionnaires about their knowledge of sea lions. Participants with higher education received higher overall scores, but participants’ education and age influenced answers on only a few questions. Residents and tourists obtained comparable overall scores, exhibiting extensive knowledge of sea lion behavior and life history. Whether participants were residents or tourists influenced answers to several questions, but when only participants with 13 years of education or more were examined, few differences in answers remained between residents or tourists. Participants’ broad knowledge of sea lions may be attributed to the items of knowledge tested, participants’ motivations for travel to the Galápagos, and the fact that sea lions are an engaging and ubiquitous animal.
Robert W. Mitchell and Alan L. Ellis
American undergraduates (192 male, 521 female) rated masculinity, femininity, and likability of two men (one highly masculine and unfeminine, one normally masculine with low femininity) from a videotaped interaction. Participants were informed that both men were cat persons, dog persons, heterosexual, adopted, or gay, or were unlabeled. Participants rated the men less masculine when cat persons than when dog persons or unlabeled, and less masculine and more feminine when gay than when anything else or unlabeled. The more masculine man received lower feminine ratings when a dog person than when a heterosexual, and higher masculine ratings when a dog person than when unlabeled. Labels did not affect likability. Overall, the gay label consistently promoted cross-gender attributions, the dog person label encouraged somewhat heightened gender-appropriate attributions, and the cat person label allowed for normative attributions.