The Journal of Social Psychology, 1982, 116, 299-300.


University of New South Wales, Australia


W. C. Fields once said: "Anyone who hates children and dogs can't be all bad" (1). He was thus affirming, if in an inverted way, an old piece of folk wisdom -- that love of pets and love of people are closely associated. Even the affection for dogs of such notorious figures as Heinrich Himmler seems to do little to undermine this belief. A belief in the generality of benevolence even forms the foundation of some of the world's religions -- such as the Jains of India who feel a necessity to avoid harming even microbes and insects. Even in the literature of social science, the belief is respected. Psychiatrists (2) see pets as helpful substitutes for people and one experimental study even found that students with low affection for dogs also cared little about people (3). Even the student protest movement of the '60s had as a substantial part of its ideological underpinnings the view that "Doves" were "life-loving" whereas "Hawks" were "death-loving." This high point in generalization found its way into the psychological literature in the form of Maccoby's "Biophilia" scale (4). Love of people was seen as associated not only with love of animals but also with a love of living things in general.

The topic would appear, however, never to have been studied in a systematic way with a general population sample. In the present study, therefore, two scales were constructed to measure the two attributes of love for animals and love of people. Although collecting a series of statements expressing love or antipathy for animals posed no difficulty, the very construct of love for people tended to fly in the face of almost the whole range of distinctions that people make among one another. To human beings, the important issue appears to be which people they like rather than whether or not they like "people" in general. Nonetheless, the existence of scales such as Rosenberg's "Misanthropy" scales encouraged the belief that there was some generality in people's attitudes towards one another, and Rosenberg's items were incorporated in the trial scale of "Love of people." The two trial scales were put into questionnaire form and mailed to 400 people selected at random from the voter registration lists of the Australian state of New South Wales (6). Only one wave was sent out to conform with the usual guarantee of anonymity. A total of 130 were returned completed. The demographic structure of the resultant sample was indistinguishable (on age, sex, education, and occupation) from that observed among contemporaneous New South Wales random doorstep samples gathered in the Sydney Metropolitan area. After deletion of items showing poor item-to-total correlations, two scales were produced from the data with reliabilities of .81 (Attitude toward Animals) and .60 (Attitude toward People). Reliabilities used were Cronbach "alphas." There were 20 items in the first scale and 15 in the second (7). As expected, attitudes toward people did then prove to be less general than attitudes toward animals.

The two scales were found to show no significant correlation (r = -.066). Some correlations with attitude toward animals, however, appear: Pet lovers were younger (r = -.320), more likely to be female (r.bis = .226), and had fewer children (r = -.254). Although there was a significant (< .05) relationship between love of animals and actually having a pet, it was surprisingly weak (r.bis = .197).

The present results are then yet another caution against the perils of overgeneralization. If love of people does not even generalize to love of animals, how much more suspect must more general concepts of benevolence be?


1. Quoted in English Radio Times, 12th August, 1965.

2. Rynearson, E. K. Humans and pets and attachment. Brit. J. Psychiat., 1978, 133, 550-555.

3. Brown, L. T., Shaw, T. G., & Kirkland, K. D. Affection for people as a function of affection for dogs. Psychol. Rep., 1972, 31, 957-958.

4. Maccoby, M. Emotional attitudes and political choices. Politics & Society, 1972, 2, 209-241.

5. Rosenberg, M. Misanthropy and political ideology. Amer. Sociolog. Rev., 1956, 21, 690-695.

6. I would like to thank my second-year Sociology Methods class who both inspired and did the work of carrying out this survey.

School of Sociology, University of New South Wales P.O. Box 1, Kensington, New South Wales, Australia 2033

* Received in the Editorial Office, Provincetown, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1981. Copyright, 1982, by The Journal Press.


The full original questionnaire as used above:

All items are responded to by circling a number: 5 for Strongly Agree, 4 for Agree, 3 for Not Sure, 2 for Disagree and 1 for Strongly Disagree

1. People who live flats or home units should not be allowed to have pets.
2. Serious criminals such as murderers should be hanged.
3. Living in a terrace house seems a very attractive way to live.
4. The killing of whales ought to be stopped
5. Most people are basically kind.
6. Children are more trouble than they are worth.
7. It is hard to get privacy nowadays.
8. It is cruel to keep birds in cages.
9. If a car driver hits an animal, he should always stop to see what he can do for it.
10. Dogs should not be allowed on the streets unless they are kept on a leash.
11. In some ways, dogs are a lot better than people.
12. Sick animals have as much right to veterinary care as people have to medical care.
13. The strongest human motivation is selfishness.
14. More people should be able to try living in a commune instead of just living alone or in families.
15. People should be able to get away from it all more than they are today.
16. Dog owners should be prosecuted if they allow their animals to mess all over the pavement.
17. A dog is man's best friend.
18. Kangaroos are a pest in much of the countryside and should be shot to keep their numbers down.
19. Nobody should be allowed to keep more than two cats.
20. Present laws are too harsh on pets.
21. Stray dogs should be shot.
22. It is cruel to de-sex animals.
23. It is pathetic when people have nothing in their lives other than their cats and dogs.
24. All children should have a pet at some time in their lives.
25. Pets tie you down too much.
26. You can always tell a place where there are pets by the bad smell.
27. Pets are a nuisance if you ever want to go on holidays.
28. Pets too often lead to trouble with neighbours.
29. You are more likely to catch various diseases and ailments if you live with pets.
30. Pets are too dirty.
31. A great problem with cats and dogs is the way they are always shedding hair.
32. We could learn a lot from the way Aborigines always share with one-another everything they've got.
33. The government should raise enough money in tax to make sure that no-one is ever hard up.
34. It would be a shame if everybody had to live in one-another's pockets the way many new Australians seem to do.
35. Everybody should have a large circle of friends if he can.
36. People should drop in on one-another more than they do today.
37. The best thing about travel is the way you get to meet so many different people.
38. One of the great things about fishing is the way it enables you to get away from other people.
39. You can't be too careful in your dealings with people.
40. Most people are more inclined to help others than to look out for themselves.
41. If you don't watch yourself, people will take advantage of you.
42. No one is going to care much about what happens to you, when you get right down to it.
43. Human nature is basically co-operative.
44. Books are often better company than people.
45. Social activities are the only thing that makes life worth living.
46. Everybody needs other people.

Score only items 1-2, 4-7, 9-12, 14, 16-19, 21-30, 32-33, 35-36, 38-42, 44. Reverse score items 1-2, 6-7,10,13,15,16,18-19, 21, 23, 25-30, 34, 38-39, 41-42, 44. Nos.1, 4, 8-12, 16-31 are Animal items; nos. 2-3, 5-7, 13-15, 32-46 are People items.

Translation notes:
The scales were written for Australian use so some terminology will need altering if they are used elsewhere.

1. "flats or home units" might be translated to "apartments or condominiums"

3. A "terrace house" might become a "row house"

18. "countryside" might become "Australian countryside"

32. "Aborigines" might become "Australian blacks", "Blacks in Africa" or some other local indigenous group known for sharing.

34. "New Australians" could become "immigrants".

Some subsequent related work:
Ojha, Hardeo (1997). The relationship of authoritarianism to locus of control, love of animals and people, and preference for political ideology. Psychological Studies, 42:32-6

St-Yves, A; Freeston, M.H.; Jacques, C; Robitaille, C (1990). Love of animals and interpersonal affectionate behavior. Psychological Reports, 67:1067-75


Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented. It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did.

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