Role of small animals in social interactions between strangers

Susan J. Hunt, Lynette A Hart, Richard Gomulkiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Although the socializing role of dogs for people has been well documented, the effectiveness of less active animals in precipitating social interactions is not known. This study examined whether a rabbit or a turtle when accompanied by a young woman confederate sitting in a park would attract unfamiliar adults and children and result in social interchange. For comparison, the woman also sat blowing bubbles or with an operating television set. Behaviors of the approaching adults and children were noted, and conversations were tape recorded. Social approaches were frequent when the woman was sitting with the rabbit or blowing bubbles, were numerous when she was sitting with the turtle, and were virtually absent when she was watching television. The rabbit attracted the most adults. Approaching adults and children talked primarily about the stimulus and themselves and made few references to the confederate. In a friendly community setting and without special effort or obvious need by the confederate, unobtrusive animals evoked social approaches and conversations from unfamiliar adults and children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-256
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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