by Rose Martelli
Jan 15th 2010 @ 4:00PM Filed Under: Dogs, Cats
Coke vs. Pepsi. Red states vs. blue states. Team Conan vs. Team Leno. Americans never tire of ways to categorize themselves. Recently, science has taken a closer look at one of the most classic of rivalries: Dog people vs. cat people.
In a recent online questionnaire titled the Gosling-Potter Internet Personality Project, a group of researchers, led by psychologist Sam Gosling at the University of Texas at Austin, asked thousands of volunteer participants to gauge their own personality traits in five areas: extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. Respondents also were asked whether they considered themselves to be cat people or dog people.
Those who identified themselves as "dog people" were likelier to score high in the extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness columns. "Cat people," on the other hand, ranked higher in both neuroticism and openness, which in the context of the study meant being creative, quirky and contemplative.
"Once you know the findings, it kind of falls into place," Gosling recently told CNN. "Agreeableness and extroversion -- dogs are companionable, they hang out, they like to be with you, they like your company, whereas cats like it for as long as they want it, and then they're off."
However, Gosling was also quick to note that opposite results could just as easily read true; a dog's incessant sniffing might be considered neurotic, for example. In other words, the team's findings, which will appear in the scientific journal "Anthrozoos" should not be read into too deeply. "It means that if you knew nothing else about them," Gosling told CNN, "that would be your best guess."
Gosling claims the information could be most useful in helping people decide which pet is best for them, and in helping develop pet therapies. But that probably won't stop dog diehards or cat fanciers from using the research to support their own deeply-felt pro-dog or pro-cat preferences.
"Dog people tend to be people who feel the need for more comfort," John Holcomb, a cat-owning computer technician from South Orange, N.J., told Paw Nation. "The large majority of dog people will say dogs are better because they like to come home and get unconditional love from a dog, which is something that a cat tends not to do. So I'd say that one big difference is that dog people are more needy."
On the other side of the argument, dog people say they are the better adjusted ones. "Dog people tend to be a lot more social and cat people more loners," says Jacqueline Broner, a graphic designer in New York City. "Nearly all my cat-people friends are homebodies who like to stay in and retreat. Dog people are out every day, enjoying the fresh air."
A number of feline-favoring folks cite a cat's low-maintenance lifestyle as a bonus. "I travel a lot, and cats can take care of themselves for two days," says Leslie Deak, a patent examiner from Arlington, Va. "Plus, kitty kisses involve far less slobber than doggie kisses."
Others -- especially those who have owned both, or those whose pet ownership is determined by factors like allergies or children in the home -- take a more judicious approach.
"I think I'm both cat and dog," says Jennifer Ray, owner of Washington Avenue Post in St. Louis, Mo. Ray grew up with both types of pet, but has stuck to dogs since she developed cat allergies a few years ago. "I think that dog owners tend to be more outgoing because there are more social activities designed for dogs and their owners, like dog parks."
The study did not seek to determine whether people are drawn to animals with which they share personality traits, or whether caring for a particular kind of pet can alter a person's character.