You may feel a bit silly when you have a conversation with your dog. And heck, talking at your plants as you water them may leave you feeling like you need to have your head examined. But as it turns out, both your pet and your foliage respond to what you say. And these little conversations are quite beneficial.
Not convinced? Here’s why talking to your dog and houseplants is one of the smartest things you’ll ever do. (Check out page 7 to see how this practice benefits you.)
For starters, get to know the term
You may not know that there is a technical term for giving human characteristics to animals and objects: Anthropomorphism. And according to author and professor Nicholas Epley, this practice isn’t all that uncommon. As he explains to Quartz.com, we often give inanimate objects and events human characteristics without even knowing it. The most common form of anthropomorphism is giving objects names, like when people name their cars or pets.
Next: But that’s not all …
It’s distinctly human
That’s right — humans are the only living things that practice anthropomorphism. And it has to do with how our brains are wired. “Neuroscience research has shown that similar brain regions are involved when we think about the behavior of both humans and of nonhuman entities, suggesting that anthropomorphism may be using similar processes as those used for thinking about other people,” Psych Central explains. Long story short: Talking to our pets and plants is totally natural.
Next: So now you’re probably wondering …
How this affects your plants
The idea of giving your houseplants a pep talk may sound ridiculous, but it can actually help them grow! The Spruce points to a study done by the Royal Horticulture Society in which 10 people were recorded reading books, and the recordings were played for tomato plants. While this practice may sound silly, they found that the plants that were spoken to grew faster than the plants that weren’t. While the link between the human voice and plant growth still remains a bit of a mystery, the RHS study has been supported by other studies.
Next: And as for your pets …
Your dog may become easier to train
Dogs recognize certain words and commands, so why wouldn’t they also respond to their owners having a conversation with them? Science Daily points to a study that takes a look at how dogs respond to smiling and found that dogs know the difference between happy and sad faces. Knowing your dog is that perceptive can make training a lot easier, IHeartDogs.com points out, as well as create a closer bond with your pet.
Next: It goes beyond the words …
Your tone of voice matters
The jury is still out on whether the tone of voice can make plants grow faster. But when it comes to dogs, the tone of voice plays a big role. Scientists at the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France, conducted a study and found puppies respond more to high-pitched vocals than more casual tones. So if you’re someone that talks “baby talk” to your dog, keep it up! Your pooch is responding to it in a positive way.
Next: Something to consider …
Gender may play a role
Research is on-going to find out if gender has an effect on how plants and pets respond to being talked to. The RHS study did find the tomato plants listening to female voices grew a bit taller than the plants listening to male voices did. And the University of Lyon used women in their study as well. Then again, we’ve all met dogs who seem to prefer men over women. So clearly more research needs to be done before a definitive conclusion can be drawn.
Next: But the best part about talking to your dog and plants is …
This behavior says something about your intelligence
It’s true. Anthropomorphism is linked to how intelligent you are. “Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet,” Epley tells Quartz. “Recognizing the mind of another human being involves the same psychological processes as recognizing a mind in other animals, a god, or even a gadget. It is a reflection of our brain’s greatest ability rather than a sign of our stupidity.” So go right on ahead and keep talking to your dog and houseplants — it means your brain is wired properly!
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