Punish and Forgive: Causal Attribution and Positivity Bias in Response to Cat and Dog Misbehavior

Society and Animals 15 (4):311-328 (2007)
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Abstract

College students judged dog or cat misbehavior via questionnaire items. Common factor analysis yielded 3 dimensions of student response: the sinner ; the sin ; and mercy . Correlations among sinner, sin, and mercy factor scores supported predictions from causal attribution theory. Nevertheless, cross-tabulation analysis revealed that nearly 90% of all respondents endorsed mercy , regardless of the extent to which the animals were seen as sinners , or evaluations of the level of sin . Absolutely high average mercy scores indicated an animal positivity bias. Results thus evoked the adage that "the quality of mercy is not strained." That is, regarding errant companion animals, cognitive responses to punish and to forgive are not always mutually exclusive options

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