Article Evaluation Critique
Allen, K.M., Blascovich, J., Tomaka, J., & Kelsey, R.M. (1991). Presence of human friends and pet dogs as moderators of autonomic responses to stress in women. Journal of personality and social psychology, 61 (4), 582-589.
The researchers are addressing the effects on stress levels in women through the study of autonomic responses, choosing the presence or absence of company as a yardstick for comparison further delineating the concept by using both evaluating and non-evaluating others while the performers are put through stressful tasks. Prior research conducted in this area validated that the mere presence of others increases the arousal of a person, increasing and decreasing performance as a result. Subsequent findings suggested that mere presence of others doesn’t guarantee social facilitation. It is indeed the cognitive factor of being a subject of evaluation by the other that makes the difference. More recently, the significance of pets as non-evaluative companions has come to light, with an array of results suggesting that the stress levels actually decrease in performers in the presence of a non-evaluating companion. The current study chooses on dogs belonging to the performers as the non-evaluating companions and female friends of the performing women as the evaluating ones. A step ahead of the previous studies, the current study conducts evaluations in both the field and in the laboratory environments. The researchers hypothesise that the performers would display less physiological autonomic reactivity in the presence of their pets than in the company of their female friends.
The study employed 45 female dog owners as the subjects in the age group of 27 to 55 years, all of them White, working women who were used to separation from their dogs all day. They were self-described as “lovers of dogs”. Several questionnaires were developed for the study and also the portable apparatus were used for field studies which included a skin conductance system, portable blood pressure monitor and a pulse meter. Each performer took part in two procedures, one in the laboratory and one in their own home. During the laboratory procedure, the subjects were alone. Their physiological data was recorded as they were given a series of arithmetic tasks with progressive complexity to be performed mentally. The same kind of tasks were given to them in the home environment as well once with their female friend, once with the dog and once with the subject being alone.
The subjects felt no change of attitude towards their pets throughout the experiment. The results of this study showed that psychological moderation of autonomic reactivity does occur due to the presence of a companion. In accordance with the researchers’ hypothesis, the results prove that while physiological reactivity is next to non-existent while the dog was present with the subject while there was significant reactivity was noticed in the presence of the subject’s closest female friend. Statistical tests like MANOVA with subsequent F tests and chi-square analyses were performed to obtain these results. The tests indicate that the presence of pets has a significance calming effect on individuals during stressful situations. The results are consistent with the earlier theoretical frameworks and results. The figures are also quite supportive of the hypothesis, indicating significant contrast in the stress levels from the laboratory and the house.
The results obtained through this study are consistent with several of the earlier studies. In the friend present condition, for example, the results were in harmony with the social facilitation theory (Zanjonc, 1965) and many of the implications that theory made over the years. Since the women employed as subjects in the study are really close to their dogs, valuing canine companionship more than human, there were no unexpected findings of much significance. These findings, according to the researchers, should open grounds for valuable research in the direction of the effects of relationships on physiological stress related activity. The research offers several implications in the field of pet-human interactions, social support and social facilitation, paving the way for empirical and theoretical explorations into the realms of the effects of companionship.