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Reduction of state-anxiety by petting animals in a controlled laboratory experiment



The effect on anxiety of petting an animal and the underlying mechanisms of such an effect were examined by a repeated-measures, within-session experiment with 58 non-clinical participants. Participants were exposed to a stressful situation in the laboratory – the presence of a Tarantula spider, which they were told they might be asked to hold – and then randomly assigned to one of five groups: petting a rabbit, a turtle, a toy rabbit, a toy turtle or to a control group. Participants’ attitudes towards animals were measured as potential moderators. State-anxiety was assessed at baseline, after the stress manipulation, and after the experimental manipulation. The main findings showed that petting an animal reduced state-anxiety. This effect could not be attributed to the petting per se, since it was observed only with animals and not with matched toys. The anxiety-reducing effect of petting an animal applied to both the soft cuddly animals and the hard-shelled ones. The anxiety-reducing effect applied to people with different attitudes towards animals and was not restricted to animal lovers. The discussion addresses possible emotional and cognitive foundations of the observed effects and their implications.
Department of Psychology and
Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, 69978
Tel Aviv, Israel
The effect on anxiety of petting an animal and the underlying mechanisms of such an effect were examined by
a repeated-measures, within-session experiment with 58 non-clinical participants. Participants were exposed to
a stressful situation in the laboratory
/ the presence of a Tarantula spider, which they were told they might be
asked to hold
/ and then randomly assigned to one of five groups: petting a rabbit, a turtle, a toy rabbit, a toy
turtle or to a control group. Participants’ attitudes towards animals were measured as potential moderators.
State-anxiety was assessed at baseline, after the stress manipulation, and after the experimental manipulation.
The main findings showed that petting an animal reduced state-anxiety. This effect could not be attributed to
the petting per se, since it was observed only with animals and not with matched toys. The anxiety-reducing
effect of petting an animal applied to both the soft cuddly animals and the hard-shelled ones. The anxiety-
reducing effect applied to people with different attitudes towards animals and was not restricted to animal
lovers. The discussion addresses possible emotional and cognitive foundations of the observed effects and their
Keywords: State-anxiety; Petting animals
State-anxiety has been defined as a transitory emotional response involving unpleasant
feelings of tension and apprehensive thoughts (Spielberger, 1966). It is often elevated in
the presence of fear-arousing cues, and its control has been the target of many
interventions. The present study focused on pet-assisted intervention for reducing
anxiety, a method that has gained enthusiastic fans over the years but has suffered from
insufficient scientific investigation.
Reviews of the literature point to many potential psychological, social and health
benefits of the human-animal bond (e.g., Brasic, 1998; Cusak, 1988; Edney, 1995). Pets
have been suggested to provide an unconditional source of affection, enhance self-
esteem and emotional stability, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and help
people socialize, provide pleasurable activity and assistance, are something to care for
and a source of consistency and a sense of security (see e.g., Edney, 1995; Katcher and
Friedmann, 1980; McCulloch, 1984). Pets have also been suggested to serve a
supportive function that buffers people against stress and illness (Allen, 1985). Among
*Corresponding author. Fax: 972-3-6423422.
ISSN 1061-5806 print: ISSN 1477-2205 online # 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/1061580031000091582
Anxiety, Stress, and Coping,
December 2003, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 387
pet owners experiencing high levels of stress, interaction with pets was identified as an
important stress management practice (Gage and Anderson, 1985). Owners of dogs, in
particular, were buffered against the impact of stressful life events on physician
utilization, as reflected in fewer doctor contacts during stressful life periods (Siegel,
1990). Other studies, however, failed to support the relationship between pet ownership
and improved psychological health (Watson and Weinstein, 1993).
These findings and assumptions were the background for the development of pet-
facilitated psychotherapy, in which a pet is used as a co-therapist and becomes an
integral part of the treatment process (Barba, 1995; Levinson, 1965). Pet-assisted
therapy has been adapted by practitioners in social work, marriage and family
counselling, psychology, and psychiatry, and evaluated by them as an effective technique
(Mason and Hagan, 1999). Animal-assisted programmes for therapeutic interventions
have been developed for special populations such as children and adolescents with
various emotional, behavioural or mental problems (Mallon, 1992), and posttraumatic
stress disorder patients (Altschuler, 1999); specific guidelines were developed for this
purpose (e.g., Society for Companion Animal Studies, 1990).
Among the benefits reported by therapists, we were especially interested in anxiety
reduction. Barker and Dawson (1998) reported that interaction with a trained animal
during a session of therapy reduced state-anxiety in psychiatric inpatients. When healthy
children were examined by a doctor in a within-subject, time-series designed experiment,
with and without a dog present, significantly greater reductions in behavioural distress
and physiological parameters of stress were found when the dog was present (Nagengast
et al., 1997). When the effects of interacting with a dog, reading aloud or reading quietly
were assessed on measures of anxiety among college students, interacting with a dog or
reading quietly lowered both physiological and psychological indicators of anxiety
(Wilson, 1991). Taken together, these findings indicate that pet animals can reduce
anxiety, especially in stressful situations.
Several recent reviews have raised serious criticisms of the abundance of descriptive
studies and the paucity of adequate quantitative methodology in this area. According to
Brasic (1998), much of the published literature consists of anecdotal case reports, while
studies utilizing experimental designs and statistical analysis are rare. Brodie and Biley
(1999) found methodological difficulties stemming from the complexity of the subject
area, including poor design, small sample sizes, and failure to randomize. Much of the
research has been conducted in the field rather than in controlled laboratory settings,
with unclear control over extraneous variables. The fact that studies have been
financially supported by special interest groups raises doubts about the objectivity of
their conclusions (Brasic, 1998). The extent to which participants were stressed is also
questionable in most of the studies, since standard experimental stressors were not used.
A further complicating factor is that not all individuals have positive attitudes
towards animals (Kidd and Kidd, 1989), and not all animals raise the same positive
responses from people. Soft, hairy animals are known to be preferred and better liked
than cold animals (Margadant-van Arcken, 1989). It is not known whether different
types of animals and different attitudes of individuals moderate the benefits of
interacting with animals.
The present study was designed to extend our knowledge by adding: (1) a controlled
experiment that would examine the specific effects of an animal on state anxiety among
stressed, non-clinical individuals; (2) an examination of the significance of the nature
388 S. SHILOH et al
and features of the animal in determining its stress-reducing effects; and (3) an
evaluation of the possible moderating effects of interpersonal variance in attitudes
towards animals on the effects of an animal.
Three questions were asked: (1) Is the effect on anxiety due to the object being a live
animal? This was studied by comparing the effect of holding and petting live animals to
that of holding and petting matching toys, utilizing a randomized experimental design.
(2) What types of pets are most effective? Are all pets equally effective, or is the potential
effect specific to soft cuddly animals? This was studied by comparing petting a rabbit
with petting a turtle, in a randomized experimental design. (3) Is the effect of petting
animals moderated by attitudes towards animals? We measured attitudes toward
animals among all participants in our experiment, and looked for statistical interactions
between experimental conditions and this variable.
The study was designed as a repeated-measures, within-session experiment. Non-clinical
participants were exposed to a stressful situation in the laboratory
/ the presence of a
Tarantula spider, which they were told they might be asked to hold. They were then
randomly assigned to one of five groups: petting either a rabbit, a turtle, a toy rabbit, or
a toy turtle, or to a control group that got neither an animal or a toy. The animals were
trained to be tolerant to petting. The toys matched the size and texture of the real
animal. State-anxiety was measured three times: at baseline, after the stress manipula-
tion, and after the experimental manipulation. Attitudes towards animals were assessed
at the beginning of the session.
Fifty-eight individuals (35 women and 23 men) took part, mean age 26.16 years (SD
6.83, range from 17 to 58). 45 were students at Tel Aviv University (34 undergraduates
and 11 graduate students), and 13 were university employees.
Two standard questionnaires were used to measure state-anxiety and attitudes towards
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) STAI (Spielberger et al ., 1970) measured the
dependent variable, using the state-anxiety part that asks respondents to indicate how
they feel right now. Twenty items describing feelings of tension, nervousness, worry and
apprehension are rated on a 4-point scale. This measure was found reliable and valid in
numerous studies, including its Hebrew translation (Teichman, 1978). Its internal
reliability in our sample ranged from Cronbach’s alpha
/0.86 at baseline to 0.93 after
the stress manipulation.
The Companion Animal Semantic Differential The Companion Animal Semantic
Differential (Poresky et al., 1988) was used to measure our moderator variable. This 18-
item scale measures attitudes toward pet animals using a 6-point semantic-differential
format (hot
/cold; good /bad; friendly/unfriendly, etc.). It was reported reliable and
valid by its developers (Poresky, et al. , 1988). In our sample its internal reliability was
Cronbach’s alpha
/0.88, and its distribution was comparable to that reported in the
American sample (means 89.649
/12.07 and 94.379/10.80 respectively).
Procedure Participants were recruited by notices posted around the university campus
inviting participation in a study on attitudes towards animals for course credit or a small
fee. After administering the Companion Animal Semantic Differential and the STAI to
participants individually, the stress manipulation was conducted. We used a spider as a
stress-arousing stimulus because of its face validity in the context of the study, and its
high fear arousing potential among non-clinical populations (Arrindell, 2000). The
experimenter (a female graduate student) uncovered a glass jar containing a Tarantula
spider, and said: ‘‘This is a spider. The experiment has two groups: one will watch the
spider, and the other will be asked to hold it. You will be told your assignment shortly.
Now, I have to ask you to wait a minute while I get something from the next room’’. The
experimenter left the room for 2 minutes, returned and administered the STAI again. At
this point the participant, who had been randomly assigned to one of the five groups,
was handed one of the following: a rabbit (n
/13), a turtle (n /11), a toy rabbit (n /
11), or a toy turtle (n/12), which had been covered until then. The subject was
instructed ‘‘to hold and pet it for a while’’. The control group (n
/11) was asked to wait
a little while longer while the experimenter left the room again. The uncovered glass jar
containing the spider remained in the room the whole time. The petting/waiting
period lasted for 2 minutes. The pet/toy was taken away by the experimenter, who
administered the STAI for the third time. All participants were then told they would not
have to hold the spider. At the end of the session a short interview was conducted on
what they had done, felt and thought during the experiment. They were then debriefed
and thanked.
Manipulation Check
The mean state-anxiety score at baseline was 30.07 (SD
/7.69) and rose to 36.07 (SD/
11.09) after the stress manipulation. A repeated-measure analysis of this difference
yielded significant results (t(1,57)
/4.11, p B/0.001). The stress manipulation, therefore,
effectively increased state-anxiety among the participants.
Experimental Effects
Distributions of age, gender and attitudes towards animals (Table I) did not differ
among the groups (F (4,53)
/0.65, chi-square/1.80, F (4,53)/0.50, n.s., respectively).
Means and standard deviations of the three state-anxiety measures for each of the five
groups are presented in Table II. At baseline, there were no significant differences
among the 5 groups in state-anxiety mean scores (F(4,53)
/1.42, n.s.). The differences
among the groups in state-anxiety scores after the experimental manipulation were
found significant using ANCOVA with baseline and post-stress anxiety scores as
covariates, (F(4,51)
/3.30, p B/0.05). The effect size was medium (Cohens d/0.58).
390 S. SHILOH et al
Thus, the experimental manipulation was shown to have affected the participants’ state-
In order to determine the sources of the experimental effect, two contrasts were first
compared: animals versus toys, and soft versus hard-shelled groups. Means and SDs of
post manipulation state-anxiety of these contrasts are presented in Table III.
Results of contrast analyses adjusted for baseline and post-stress manipulation
anxiety show the animals-toys contrast to be significant (F(1,55)
/4.51, p B/0.05), with
a low effect-size (Cohens d
/0.31), while the soft versus hard-shelled contrast is not
significant (F(1,55)
/2.39, n.s.). In addition, the control group versus animals contrast
was significant (F(1,55)
/9.49, p B/0.01), while the contrast of control group versus
toys was not (F(1,55)
/1.87, n.s.). Thus, petting animals resulted in lower state-anxiety
scores compared to petting toys, while the texture of the petted object had no effect. Nor
was there a significant difference in state-anxiety between petting a real rabbit or a real
turtle (F(1,55)
/2.38, n.s.).
Interactions with Attitudes Towards Animals
Pearson correlations between attitudes and state-anxiety scores were non-significant
/0.01, 0.12, and -0.03, at baseline, after stress manipulation and after experimental
manipulation respectively). Consequently, entering attitudes as a covariant in the overall
analysis did not change the manipulation effect (F(4,50)
/3.28, p B/0.05). This was also
demonstrated by two-way between-subjects analysis of variance using a median split (at
score 90.50) of the participants with high versus low attitudes towards animals. No
TABLE II Means and standard deviations of three measures of state-anxiety according to
experimental groups
State anxiety measure: Rabbit Turtle Toy-rabbit Toy-turtle Control
/13 n/11 n/11 n/12 n /11
Baseline 29.699
/5.31 32.189/9.49 32.919/8.26 29.089/7.74 26.649/7.16
Post stress manipulation 36.549
/6.28 33.279/10.76 37.279/14.06 37.179/14.86 35.919/9.28
Post experimental manipulation 28.549
/7.33 28.919/7.93 32.099/10.82 34.339/9.39 34.369/8.02
TABLE I Demographic variables and attitudes toward animals according to experimental groups
Rabbit Turtle Toy-rabbit Toy-turtle Control
/13 n/11 n /11 n/12 n/11
Age 27.009
/7.00 23.009/4.00 26.009/4.00 28.009/6.00 27.009/11.00
Gender (F/M) 8/5 8/3 7/4 7/5 5/6
Attitude toward animals 86.089
/18.40 90.369/8.69 92.649/10.24 90.339/9.72 85.829/21.21
TABLE III Means and standard deviations of state-anxiety according to animals-toys and soft-
shelled-hard-shelled contrasts
n Mean Standard Deviation
Animals 23 28.71 7.45
Toys 23 33.82 9.44
Soft 24 30.70 8.75
Hard-shelled 23 31.73 8.96
significant interaction with experimental groups on post-manipulation anxiety was
found (F(4,57)
/1.39, n.s.). These findings do not support the moderating hypothesis of
attitudes towards animals on the stress-reducing effects of petting animals.
Our study demonstrated that a short period of petting an animal resulted in reduced
state-anxiety among non-clinical individuals in a stressful situation. The experimental
design ruled out the effect being due to the petting per se, since it was observed only
with animals and not with matched toys. The anxiety-reducing effect of petting animals
was also found to hold for hard-shelled animals like a turtle and was not limited only to
soft cuddly animals, indicating that it was the quality of being alive rather than the
texture of the object that produced the effect. Finally, our findings showed that the
anxiety-reducing effect applies to people with different attitudes towards animals, and is
not restricted to animal lovers.
These findings correspond with those of a few previous experimental studies
reporting positive effects on anxiety and distress associated with interacting with
animals (Barker and Dawson, 1998; Nagengast et al., 1997; Wilson, 1991). Our findings
refined and strengthened the previous ones by experimentally manipulating the stress
and anxiety in the situation, and by adding groups engaged with similar inanimate
objects. A comparable control used in another study (not on anxiety) found that
children with Down’s syndrome interacting with a real dog showed more sustained focus
for positive and co-operative interactions than did children interacting with an imitation
dog in controlled conditions under the direction of an adult (Limond et al., 1997).
How can this effect be explained? Psychoanalytic approaches suggest that the innate
drive to associate with animals satisfies people’s emotional need for affiliation
(Levinson, 1972). Animals are believed to relate to symbolic thought according to
Jungian theory on archetypes and the unconscious (Henderson, 1999). Additional
emotional gratification comes from animals’ non-evaluative support, which can reduce
threat to the ego (Allen et al., 1991).
In our experiment, participants were instructed to hold and pet the animals/objects.
There is evidence that touching another living thing (pets and humans) engenders
positive feelings and reduces stress, pain and anxiety (e.g., Lafreniere et al., 1999;
Montagu, 1978; Spence and Olson, 1997). The relaxing and comforting emotion
induced by touching and petting an animal can, therefore, account for our findings.
Although some studies show that touch per se is not necessary for achieving the positive
effects of animals, and that similar effects can be obtained from the mere presence of
animals, like watching an aquarium filled with fish (e.g., Cole and Gawlinski, 1995), we
did not differentiate between the effects of touching and the mere presence of an animal.
Such a distinction is recommended in future experiments.
Another potential mechanism underlying our findings may be cognitive. Brickel
(1982) suggested an ‘attentional shift hypothesis’, according to which pets divert
attention from an anxiety-generating stimulus, helping alleviate anxiety. Evidence that
distraction is effective in diminishing anxiety supports this hypothesis (Wilkins, 1971).
Pet animals are ideally suited for a distraction role because of their appealing
characteristics. They are complex, unpredictable, interactive, and operate on tactile,
392 S. SHILOH et al
auditory, visual, and probably other levels. The mediational role of attention in anxiety
has been supported by some researchers (Clark, 1999; Penfold and Page, 1999), and
rejected by others (Allen et al., 1991; Harris, and Menzies, 1998). Our findings, while
compatible with the ‘attentional shift hypothesis’, do not preclude other underlying
mechanisms such as the aforementioned emotional processes. Studies directly examin-
ing the hypothesis that the petting effect is mediated by distraction are strongly
In conclusion, it might be appropriate at this stage to assume that both emotional and
cognitive mechanisms, separately or in combination, can potentially explain our results.
Further research applying carefully controlled methodology is necessary to reveal and
separate the contributions of various causal factors.
Limitations of the Study
Generalizations should be drawn from our results with caution. One limitation concerns
the specific animals considered. Different animals have different characteristics, and
compatibility between people and their pets on physical, behavioural and psychological
dimensions was found to be related to the owners’ mental and physical health (Budge et
al., 1998). Despite our failure to find interactions between attitudes towards animals
and the effects of petting, we should bear in mind that we tested only two, small,
friendly pets. An unsuitable, unhealthy, poorly behaved, nervous animal can be
hazardous both physically and psychologically to the individual (Duncan, 1998; Edney,
The absence of an interaction between the anxiety reducing effect and attitudes
towards animals may be due to a restriction of the range of attitudes in our sample. The
distribution of scores in CASD was skewed, and may indicate that only those favourably
predisposed towards animals participated in the study. A more balanced sample may be
needed in order to test the interaction hypothesis. Other interpersonal differences in
traits that were not investigated in the present research may also moderate the effect of
petting. Replications of our results with different pets, individuals and moderating
variables, and including behavioural/avoidance and physiological measures of anxiety
are also desirable.
Also, the design of our experiment, in which participants were left alone in the room,
did not allow a direct check that participants actually followed the experimenter’s
instruction ‘‘to hold and pet’’ the animal. Consequently, it may be more accurate to
conclude that holding and/or petting an animal produced the observed effects.
Another issue that should be addressed is the type of stress alleviated by pets in our
experiment. In another laboratory study, researchers failed to find reduced state-anxiety
and arousal among male students interacting with a dog during a stressful speech task
compared to a control group (Straatman et al., 1997). They concluded that the stress of
the speech task and the laboratory setting overrode the influence of the pet. More
research is required to map the types and intensities of stress situations that are suitable
for pet-assisted interventions.
Finally, it has been argued that the high degree of experimental control characteristic
of laboratory-based research often fails to yield a source of clinically relevant
information that can be extrapolated to natural conditions (Chorpita, 1997). General-
izing from a non-clinical sample has also been questioned. In our study, even after the
anxiety arousing manipulation, levels of anxiety did not reach clinical levels. However,
in a summary of a mini-series of papers on laboratory research on anxiety, Eifert et al.
(1999) concluded that experimental research is both relevant and indispensable for the
continued advancement of our understanding and treatment of anxiety. They also stated
that creating clinically relevant phenomena in populations without known pathology
permits a ‘‘cleaner’’ examination of the variables and processes involved. We adopt these
views, and encourage the development of more interdisciplinary non-conventional co-
operations, like ours, between professionals and researchers from different perspectives,
from nursing through psychotherapy to zoology and veterinary medicine, attracted by
similar questions. Such an endeavour presents a great challenge, and can be both
exciting and fruitful to all involved.
This article is devoted to the memory of Gal Sorek. This study was done in partial
fulfilment of the Master’s Degree thesis of the second author. We want to thank Shani
Doron for her excellent assistance in data collection, and our colleagues at the
Zoological park at Tel Aviv University for their co-operation. We would also like to
acknowledge Keren Hadzdakah in name of Bracha and Motti Blisser, and Yad Hanadiv
Foundation for partially supporting the present research.
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... This result is supported by several previous studies suggesting that unleashed dogs in urban green spaces are disliked Arnberger and Haider, 2005), especially for persons heavily affected by stress (Arnberger and Eder, 2015). However, existing literature has also shown that petting a dog could lead to transient decreases in blood pressure and heart rate (Shiloh et al., 2003;Eddy, 1996). Wells (2009) argued that dogs could influence their owner's restorative quality through increasing social contacts, thus easing feelings of loneliness and depression. ...
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Despite the important roles that animals play in ecosystems, their functions in urban green spaces are often overlooked. To fill this gap, this study explored the effects of four animal species on the mental restorative quality of urban green spaces by comparing observers’ response to pictures with and without animals. The results indicated that swans, deer, and pigeons which were unthreatening to humans could significantly improve mental restoration of observers, and comparatively, swans had the strongest effect. Conversely, unleashed dogs were a potential threat to humans, and decreased the mental restorative quality of urban green spaces. The mechanism of animals’ effects on mental restoration and the differential effects of four animal species were discussed. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study addressing the mental health impacts of animals in landscapes, and the results suggest that “animal-inclusive landscape design” has a positive impact on urban green spaces.
... La evidencia de validez y confiabilidad obtenidas en el presente estudio abren una posibilidad importante sobre el uso de la ECA en diversos ámbitos, por ejemplo, en la investigación clínica en torno a los efectos positivos sobre la salud de personas que mantienen una interacción cercana con un animal de compañía o tienen actitudes positivas hacía ellos (Barker & Wolen, 2008;Friedmann & Son, 2009;Headey et al., 2002), encontrando en estos casos menores índices de ansiedad (Odendaal & Meintjes, 2003;Shiloh et al., 2003;Zilcha-Mano et al., 2012), menor estrés (Allen et al., 2001;Friedmann et al., 2007;Wells, 2005), mayores índices de bienestar (Sugawara et al., 2012) y en general una mejor salud (Headey & Grabka, 2007). ...
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Humanos y animales se influyen mutuamente en una relación dinámica que deriva en situaciones benéficas o perjudiciales para ambos, por ello el estudio de las variables involucradas en esta relación adquiere relevancia. El presente estudio tuvo por objetivo evaluar las propiedades psicométricas de una Escala de Compasión hacía los Animales (ECA) en población mexicana perteneciente a diferentes estados en México. La investigación tuvo un diseño ex post facto, por medio de un muestreo no probabilístico se reclutaron 386 participantes hombres y mujeres, mayores de 18 años, a quienes se les aplicó la ECA. El análisis de datos mostró una adecuada consistencia interna (α= .93), una estructura unifactorial que explicó el 63% de la varianza y el análisis factorial confirmatorio arrojó adecuados índices de bondad de ajuste (χ2 entre los grados de libertad = 64.158 / 24 = 2,67, CFI = ,95, RMSEA = ,07, NFI = .96; IFI = .97). En conclusión la ECA es un instrumento adecuado para evaluar compasión hacia los animales en población mexicana.
... According to Wells and Perrine [39], pets could serve as a "stress buster": petting or looking at a pet can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate (in the short term). In the long term, this activity may help improve cardiovascular fitness (e.g., [42,43]). In ad-dition, attachment to a pet can increase self-efficacy and self-esteem, and encourage owners to feel positive emotions, which in turn positively affect their coping strategies for managing stress [44,45]. ...
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Simple Summary: In health care, animal-assisted intervention has been used primarily to enhance the positive effects of therapy. For example, it has been used with patients suffering from autism spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional disorders. More recently , this type of intervention has been increasingly used in the workplace to mitigate the effects of stress in employees (including healthcare workers). The aim of this systematic review was to analyze the potential benefits of animal-assisted intervention in healthcare workers. Abstract: Healthcare settings have recently increased the use of companion animals in the workplace to provide emotional support to people with disabilities, but there is limited empirical research on the effects of these programs on healthcare workers. However, it is reasonable to speculate that Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAIs) may have positive effects on health care workers (HCWs) by buffering the negative effects of work-related stress and other occupational psychosocial risk factors. The aim of this review was to examine the beneficial effects of AAIs on the psychological well-being of HCWs. A systematic review was conducted in December 2021 to gain insight into the positive effects of pets on HCWs in the workplace. Searches were conducted in the following databases: Scopus, PubMed/Medline, Web of Science, and Google Scholar, including studies between 2001 and December 2021, and 12 articles were included in the review. The results indicate that implementing the AAI program in a busy clinic is feasible and that the program is accepted by medical professionals because of the immense psychological benefits it provides. However, the healthcare professionals disliked the experimental design that forced them to leave their workplaces at a certain time.
... In addition, the prevalence of mood disorders is more than 20%. Several researchers have indicated that human interaction with animals with the potential of helping to reduce these problems, as well as the result of many cases, leads to increase happiness and empathy (Banks & W. A. Banks 2002; Daly & Suggs 2010;Le Roux & Kemp 2009;Shiloh, Sorek & Terkel 2003). Considering the beneficial nature of pet ownership, it can have a positive impact on human mental health issues. ...
... Shiloh et al. in 2003 revealed that petting a live animal over a toy animal reduced self-reported anxiety. 48 Moreover, Barker et al. in 2003 49 verified that interaction with a live animal for just 15 minutes significantly reduced anxiety and fear when compared to the control group of children who read magazines. Comparison of the anxiety level of children between 4 years and 11 years by introducing the therapy dog in the waiting area and operatory area showed a significant reduction in levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. ...
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Prolonged or excessive stress negatively affects learning, behavior and health across the lifespan. To alleviate adverse effects of stress in school children, stressors should be reduced, and support and effective interventions provided. Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) have shown beneficial effects on health and wellbeing, however, robust knowledge on stress mediation in children is lacking. Despite this, AAIs are increasingly employed in settings world-wide, including schools, to reduce stress and support learning and wellbeing. This study is the first randomized controlled trial to investigate dog-assisted interventions as a mediator of stress in school children with and without special educational needs (SEN) over the school term. Interventions were carried out individually and in small groups twice a week for 20 minutes over the course of 4 weeks. We compared physiological changes in salivary cortisol in a dog intervention group with a relaxation intervention group and a no treatment control group. We compared cortisol level means before and after the 4 weeks of interventions in all children as well as acute cortisol in mainstream school children. Dog interventions lead to significantly lower stress in children with and without special educational needs compared to their peers in relaxation or no treatment control groups. In neurotypical children, those in the dog interventions showed no baseline stress level increases over the school term. In addition, acute cortisol levels evidenced significant stress reduction following the interventions. In contrast, the no treatment control group showed significant rises in baseline cortisol levels from beginning to end of school term. Increases also occurred in the relaxation intervention group. Children with SEN showed significantly decreased cortisol levels after dog group interventions. No changes occurred in the relaxation or no treatment control groups. These findings provide crucial evidence that dog interventions can successfully attenuate stress levels in school children with important implications for AAI implementation, learning and wellbeing.
In diesem Kapitel wird die Rolle der Natur für die Gesundheit des Menschen und die dahintersteckenden Theorien und Mechanismen aus verschiedenen Gesichtspunkten heraus erklärt. Dabei belegen Studien, dass nicht nur der Faktor „Grün“, sondern auch der Kontakt zu Tieren dazu beitragen und eine Strategie darstellen kann, ein psychisches wie auch physisches Wohlbefinden zu erhalten oder sogar wiederzuerlangen. Im Embodiment wird diese Affinität zur Natur beispielsweise über Erinnerungsauslöser und taktilen Kontakt zu Tieren mit verschiedenen Methoden genutzt.
Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) are now being considered an alternative and complimentary treatment modality, supporting the physical, psychosocial, and educational needs of children and adults. AAI is the accepted umbrella term that encompasses various practices including animal-assisted therapy, animal-assisted education, and animal-assisted activities. This article will discuss the foundations of AAI and provide supporting information to conceptualize the value of human–animal interactions. Additionally, attention will be given to provide a possible roadmap for the future of AAI, as well as a discussion on the importance of preserving the welfare of the therapy animals involved.
Animal-Assisted Interventions have evolved in the past 50 years from a misunderstood field to a more respected form of complementary therapyComplementary therapy. Although the field still lacks in strong empirical evidence, science is catching up with what many have thought intuitively: our interactions with animals are good for our well-being. This chapter will provide an overview of the value of human–animal interactions and provide insights into both the physiological and psychological benefits of the human–animal bond. Attention will be given to defining the bond as well as providing insights on why people seem drawn to developing relationships with animals. Finally, attention will be given to offering an overview of the spectrum of animal-assisted interventions, the present state of affairs in the field as well as an introduction to the importance of preserving the welfare of all beings involved in these interactions.
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Our relationship with domestic animals is rooted in evolutionary, psychological, and physiological processes. There are significant health benefits for people associated with their interaction with animals. There are significant health benefits for animals associated with their interaction with people. Animals can be effectively utilized in therapeutic settings that are cost effective and humane.
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The Companion Animal Semantic Differential consists of 18 bipolar semantic differential word pairs for assessing the respondent's perception of a childhood companion animal. The measure was administered by questionnaire to a sample of 188 students. The Cronbach alpha internal reliability coefficient was 0.90 for the 18-item scale. The construct validity of the scale was indicated by its significant correlations with the evaluative factor of the Pet Attitude Scale and the childhood Companion Animal Bonding Scale of .31 and .54, respectively. Factor analysis identified a short 9-item form as a one-dimensional measure of the respondent's affective attitude toward his or her pet. The short form's Cronbach alpha was .88 and its correlations with the affective factors of the Pet Attitude Scale and the childhood Companion Animal Bonding Scales were .24 and .50, respectively. The measure is included.
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There is a growing awareness of the challenge to human life presented by the post­ industrial world. Those who consider the natural world as the foundation of our human nature have voiced concern over the psychological disenfranchisement human beings are likely to experience as the wilderness disappears. As more species become extinct, there is a sense of increasingly urgent need to regain our connection with wild animals if we are to survive in the post-modem world. This article describes an activity (with case example) using animal imagery associ­ated with photographs of wild animals, and investigates why the exercise seems especially effective in counseling adolescents. In doing so, the article makes a retro­spective exploration of this exercise in terms of its relationship to symbolic thought, art and aesthetics, Jungian theory on archetypes and the unconscious, and, finally, the use of metaphor in counseling. A conceptual framework is suggested. Implications for counseling technique and future research are considered.
Conference Paper
Anxiety disorders are characterised by distorted beliefs about the dangerousness of certain situations and/or internal stimuli. Why do such beliefs persist? Six processes (safety-seeking behaviours, attentional deployment, spontaneous imagery, emotional reasoning, memory processes and the nature of the threat representation) that could maintain anxiety-related negative beliefs are outlined and their empirical status is reviewed. Ways in which knowledge about maintenance processes has been used to develop focussed cognitive therapy programmes are described and evaluations of the effectiveness of such programmes are summarized. Finally, ways of identifying the effective ingredients in cognitive therapy programmes are discussed.
Quantitative research on Therapeutic Touch (TT), published in refereed nursing journals from 1985 to 1995, is reviewed. Therapeutic Touch is defined by Dolores Krieger, the founder of this nursing intervention. The authors of this Integrative Review examine what is known and not known to date in order to facilitate appropriate application of this modality in practice, and to offer recommendations for future research. Critical characteristics of eleven quantitative studies are identified and analyzed. These characteristics include: author/year/journal/title; study purpose (hypotheses); background/literature review/conceptual citations; sample selection method; study design/random assignment; independent variable/length of treatment/control and confounders; dependent variables/measurements; outcomes; study limitations; and implications for future research. After reviewing the studies, it is concluded that there is evidence to support the practice of Therapeutic Touch for the reduction of pain or anxiety. There is clearly a lack of congruity between the research statement, conceptual framework, operational definition of TT and the findings. This incongruity is discussed and incorporated in the recommendations for future research including outcome, theory-generating and theory-testing research.
Studies conducted over the last decade have demonstrated the occurrence of attentional biases towards anxiety-relevant verbal information in people with anxiety disorders and those with high trait anxiety. Studies investigating the existence and significance of attentional bias in anxiety disorders have shown attentional bias to be a reliable correlate of anxiety that diminishes when anxiety is successfully treated (e.g., Lavy et al. 1993). However, despite speculation that attentional bias may predispose the development of anxiety, or contribute to maintaining anxiety, only one empirical study has demonstrated that it is possible to alter attentional bias, and that this has an impact on subsequent state anxiety (MacLeod, 1995). Such demonstrations are crucial in determining the causal status of attentional bias in anxiety disorders. The present study reports a methodology for investigating the causal status of attentional bias in anxiety. Forty-four non-clinical volunteers were randomly allocated to one of two training conditions aimed at inducing an attentional bias either towards or away from spider-related verbal information. Procedures targeting attentional bias did not influence self-reported anxiety in this study, nor did changes in responding on the dot probe task generalise to a second commonly used measure of attentional bias, the Stroop task. Explanations of these findings with regard to the mediational role of attentional biases in anxiety are considered.