A Dog Accompanying a Man Makes Social Threatening Contexts Less Aversive and Enhances Perceived Safety Regardless of Societal Safety Levels

  1. Delgado-Rodríguez, Rafael 3
  2. Gantiva, Carlos 1
  3. Pérez, David Ordóñez 2
  4. Linares, Rocío 3
  1. 1 Department of Psychology, University of Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
  2. 2 Department of Animal-Assisted Interventions, Perruneando, Jaén, Spain
  3. 3 Department of Psychology, University of Jaén, Jaén, Spain

ISSN: 0892-7936 1753-0377

Year of publication: 2023

Pages: 1-23

Type: Article

DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2023.2280375 GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openOpen access editor

More publications in: Anthrozoös


Research shows that the inclusion of a dog in pictures showing a man in threatening scenarios improves women’s emotional reactions to them. However, the magnitude of this “dog-accompanying effect” (i.e., whether the inclusion of a dog renders socially threatening scenes less aversive, neutral, or positive) in societies differing in terms of safety remains unknown. To address this, undergraduate women from societies differing in safety levels (lower [Colombia, n = 120] and higher [Spain, n = 131] safety levels) provided valence, arousal, dominance, and safety ratings to images depicting a man alone or with a dog in threatening scenes, as well as to images of pleasant and neutral social scenes. The same response pattern was found in both countries: when viewing images of a dog accompanying a man, women gave lower valence, dominance, safety, and calmness ratings than when viewing images of neutral scenes. Conversely, women gave higher valence, dominance, safety, and calmness ratings when observing images of a dog accompanying a man compared with images showing the man alone in threatening scenes. Overall, these data indicate that a dog’s presence in pictures buffered negative emotional reactions to photos of threatening social scenes in societal contexts differing in safety levels, but still (slightly) activated the defensive motivational system. The slight activation of the defensive motivational system is interpreted as an adaptative response of the person to reduce or avoid potential harm (e.g., a hypothetical attack by the man). Our study provides a deeper understanding of the influence of dogs on women’s emotional reactions to images of threatening scenes by clarifying the magnitude of the dog effect in societies differing in safety levels.

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