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Surprising Science

A “D-Harmony” For Dogs and Owners?

A website that matches animals’ “personalities” with those of humans was just one of the many eye-opening ideas that UT Austin psychologist Sam Gosling shared in his second Big Think interview. Of course, the site is just a fun fantasy (for now), but Gosling’s research has confirmed what pet owners have long suspected: that many higher mammals possess mental and behavioral characteristics corresponding roughly to human personality traits.

The implications for our dealings with animals could be profound: not only could pets be better paired with families, but service animals could be better paired with tasks, such as bomb-sniffing in high-pressure environments.

The “Snoop” author also discussed his latest research into humans’ personal spaces, which has expanded to include the virtual spaces—e.g., Facebook pages—that we create for ourselves online. According to Gosling, the modern social media phenomenon may actually be restoring the more fluid boundaries between public and private selves that existed in pre-industrial societies. Finally, Gosling explained the implications his study of physical spaces may have for public housing projects: evidence suggests that by customizing them to residents’ personalities, housing organizations can make them more liveable and successful over the long term.


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