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Pioneering PetSpace Collaboration Analyzes Variability in Human-Interaction Research

Members of the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Leadership Institute advanced the body of research on human-animal interaction through the publishing of a new study in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science. It is the first of 14 planned articles emerging from the convening of the Leadership Insitute, which aims to contribute to the current standard of understanding of human-animal interaction, suggest future directions in applied research, and consider the interdisciplinary societal implications of the findings in this important area.

From the announcement:

Authors – Kerri E. Rodriguez (Colorado State University), Harold Herzog (Western Carolina University), and Nancy R. Gee (Virginia Commonwealth University) – collaborated on an article analyzing why the field of Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) is plagued with mixed results and presents possible remedies to ensure the validity and reliability of conclusions in HAI research.

The authors note that variability in research outcomes is not limited to HAI and is common in more established research fields such as psychology and medicine. However, HAI is unique because these studies focus on two complex organisms – human and companion animal – interacting in dynamic ways. It is argued that this complexity makes HAI research particularly challenging and requires a broad spectrum of theoretical and methodological considerations to improve rigor. The article examines the diversity in methods and measurements in HAI, as well as the variability in human and animal participants. Additionally, the team cites the growth of HAI research in recent years as another potential cause of the wide range and, at times, conflicting HAI findings. In a Google Scholar search using the term “therapy dog,” the number of published papers related to canine-assisted therapies jumped from 60 in 2010 to 237 in 2019.

Read the press release here and learn more about the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace at annenbergpetspace.org.

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