As the owner of a dog, I’ll shamelessly admit that I have regular conversations with my dog, even though I know he has literally no idea what I’m saying. I’m absolutely certain he doesn’t understand me because I have a particularly stupid dog, but no matter. I like talking to him. No shame.
If you’re also someone who enjoys talking to your pet, I have some good news! According to behavioral science professor Nicholas Epsey from the University of Chicago, talking to your pet is a sign of intelligence and imagination, meaning people who chit-chat with their pets are smart and creative! Well, everyone except for those who expect their pet to answer them. Then they’re probably not very smart. But that's okay too.
Apparently, talking to our pets shows our instinctive need for companionship and our desire to build character, and this is scientifically called anthropomorphizing, which means giving non-human things a personality. Since pets are not humans, we feel the need to give them a personality in order to feel even closer to them.
Most of us anthropomorphize pets and objects, like stuffed animals, when we're younger, but as we get older, many of us grow out of this habit, mainly because society tells us it’s an immature behavior (which it’s not). Anyway, if we continue to anthropomorphize our pets as we get older, scientists see this as a sign of intelligence.
“We often name objects like cars, instruments, boats, and cameras — all items that we develop special relationships with and consider extensions of our own identities,” Epsey told Quartz, suggesting naming objects and feeling close to them is a good indicator of self-awareness and identity formation.
"But it goes beyond naming: We think our cat is acting 'sassy'; that the stock market is 'angry' or 'working to recover'; and we ask our car 'why it won't turn on' and call it a 'rickety old man' when it starts to stall."
"This is just the byproduct of having an active, intelligent social cognition — of having a brain that is programmed to see and perceive minds."
What this basically means is that when you chat with your pet, it means you have a solid imagination and you’re able to mentally assign it a personality, and so your pet becomes your close companion. This means you are smart! Hooray!
However, attributing a personality to a non-human object and talking to it can also mean talking to your plants or rock collection or hair brush or something, and maybe that's not as indicative of intelligence, but it definitely shows you're very imaginative.
So, next time you're having a one-sided conversation with your furry friend or other non-human object, take pride in knowing you're smart and creative. Or just creative. Whatever works.