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Perception of Animals and Cardiovascular Responses During Verbalization with an Animal Present

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The presence of animals has been associated with decreased physiological responses to stressors. Not all individuals respond equally to the presence of friendly animals. The current study was designed to examine whether attitudes toward animals are related to individuals' physiological responses when an animal is present. The relationship of individuals' perceptions of animals to their blood pressure and heart rate responses during verbalization in the presence of a dog were examined among urban college students (n = 218). Lockwood's projective Animal Thematic Apperception Test (ATAT) was used to assess subjects' attitudes toward animals and people in scenes containing animals and identical scenes without animals. The significant period by perception interactions in analyses of variance with repeated measures revealed that cardiovascular responses to verbalization with an animal present were significantly lower for individuals who perceived scenes with animals more positively than for individuals who perceived scenes with animals present less positively. Cardiovascular responses when the dog was present were not related to perceptions of scenes without animals present. The differences in cardiovascular responses depended upon the scenes used. This study supports the view that how people perceive animals moderates their physiological responses to stressors when an animal is present.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/089279393787002303

Publication date: June 1, 1993

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