The Strangeness Of Our Love Of Our Pets

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The Dish

Virginia Hughes looks at the science on why people have pets:

If pet-keeping were a purely (or even largely) biologically driven trait, it would be difficult to explain why its popularity has spiked in the last 200 years, and particularly since World War II — bowie-lapa tiny blip on the timeline of human evolution. As a rough marker of this change [psychology professor Harold] Herzog turns to Google Ngram, a tool that tracks the frequency of words published in books. If you put the word “pet” into Google Ngram, you’ll see a sharp rise since about 1960.

Similarly, if pet-keeping were biological you’d expect all human cultures to do it. While it’s true that most human cultures have pets in their home, the way they interact with them is remarkably variable. Herzog cites a study published in 2011 comparing pet-keeping practices in 60 societies around the world. The study found…

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