December 10, 2017

Do People Look Like Their Dogs?

This article presents a theory known as the mere exposure effect and how it relates to how humans choose their companions, specifically their dogs. Coren begins by providing two sources of evidence that support his theory that humans choose dogs that are similar in appearance to themselves. First, he states that multiple literary texts have supported the idea that when humans choose partners, they typically prefer partners that are similar in physical appearance. Corren then relates this idea that one prefers interpersonal attraction to the way dating sites work and how users of dating sites typically date those similar in appearance. He argues that we can carry this assumption over to the relationships between owners and their dogs. Second, Corren presents an experiment that demonstrates how humans prefer familiar objects or experience over novelty objects or experiences, providing further evidence  in support of the mere exposure effect which causes humans to prefer familiarity over novelty. This is then related to how humans interpret different breeds of dog and how they relate specific physical characteristics of certain dog breeds to themselves. Corren also describes an experiment in which 261 women at the University of British Columbia were asked to rate portraits of four different dog based on how they liked the physical appearance of the dog, how friendly it seemed, how loyal they thought it might be, and how intelligent it appeared to be on a 9-point scale. The four breeds included in the portraits were English Springer Spaniel, Beagle, Siberian Husky, and a Basenji, which can then be divided into two categories of lop-eared breeds, Springer Spaniel and the Beagle, and prick-eared breeds, Siberian Husky and Basenji.  After this assessment, the participants were asked about their daily lives and, most importantly, were asked to picked a style of hair that most closely resembled their hairstyle within the past three years.

As a result, women who had longer hair that covered their ears typically picked lop-eared breeds, while women with shorter hair that did not cover their ears tended towards the prick-eared breeds. This result evidently supports the idea that people prefer familiarity over novelty, almost as if the dogs were reflections of themselves. Furthermore, if this argument for mere exposure effect were to be extrapolated, one could make an argument that humans also tend to favor people with similar somatotypes.


Reviewed by: Danielle Folkerts


Coren, Stanley . “Do People Look Like Their Dogs?” ANTHROZOÖS, vol. 12, no. 2, Jan. 1999, pp. 111–114., doi:10.2752/089279399787000336.