Pet lovers have long known the therapeutic effects of pets.
Spending time playing with them, snuggling with them and gently stroking their fur has been shown to have tremendously positive effects on the physical and mental health of their people.
This led researchers to pose the question: what happens when people look at photos of animals? A new study did just that.
They asked couples to look at a collection of photos pairing images of the spouses with precious puppies. The results? All positive.
When people were shown positive images, including those of playful puppies, paired with photos of their spouse, they developed positive associations with their spouses.
The study originated after the Department of Defense asked Jim McNulty, a professor at the University of Florida, to help them develop strategies to help married couples survive the difficulties that come with being separated during deployments.
McNulty’s research was an attempt to change the way couples thought about one another by improving “the automatic associations that people make when they think about their partners.”
The study involved 144 married couples who had all been married for less than five years.
Those in the control group were repeatedly shown video streams of their partner with neutral images such as a button.
Those in the experimental group were shown video streams that included their partner as well as positive images and words.
At the end of the study, those who viewed the puppies and positive words had better attitudes about their partners and rated themselves as having a higher marriage quality.
“I was actually a little surprised that it worked,” McNulty said.
“All the theory I reviewed on evaluative conditioning suggested it should, but existing theories of relationships and just the idea that something so simple and unrelated to marriage could affect how people feel about their marriage made me skeptical.”
So, the next time you get into a quarrel with your spouse, go find a cute puppy and enjoy him together.