Thesis Committee Member(s)
Shelton, Fr. Charles, S.J.
Regis College Senior Honors Program
Thesis - Open Access
Number of Pages
"How ought we to live?" It is the Jesuit question, the question that guides our classes and our lives, the question we must answer to fulfill our call to become "men and women in service of others." Throughout our Jesuit education, we often hear the question "How ought we to live?" We also often hear "cura personalis." We eventually learn that how we ought to live inextricably ties to how we ought to nurture our minds, bodies, and spirits. We can help our students meet this goal by allowing them to implement cura personalis in their daily lives "that is, in and through school-sponsored housing. One way we can help students to achieve cura personalis is by allowing them to own pets" pets that can nurture their minds, bodies, and spirits. Human-animal interaction (HAI) has long been the subject of psychological research.
The effects of animals on the mind are well known: research has consistently shown that HAI relaxes humans. The effects of animals on the body are equally as well known: research has shown that HAI confers several health benefits, including decreased blood pressure"especially in pet owners. However, although years of correlational and anecdotal research suggest that animals increase empathy and compassion, I found no experimental studies that assessed animals' effects on these emotions. In the Honors in Neuroscience portion of my thesis, I used a combination of EEGs and empathy and compassion surveys to assess how both consistent and inconsistent HAI impacted empathy and compassion. 1 also tested participants one full week and three full weeks after the initial interaction to see how long these effects lasted. I found that consistent, but not inconsistent, HAI increases: empathic concern, compassionate love of humanity, and compassionate love of specific close others. The combination of my research and previous research on HAI shows that consistent HAI"such as that provided by pet ownership" nurtures cur a personalis.
When asking "How ought we to live?" we are also challenged to ask the costs. Attempting to answer the "At what cost?" question, in my own study I assessed the effects of consistent and inconsistent petting on rats' anxiety. I found that consistent HAI does not increase rats' anxiety and that it may benefit the animals by decreasing their anxiety (findings consistent with previous research). This then implies that students can achieve cura personalis while serving another (a pet). I therefore propose that we allow animals to live in designated areas of Regis-sponsored housing (one section of Residence Village), basing my proposal on the successful implementation of pet-friendly policies at other colleges. Implementation of this proposal will allow students to live how they ought to live"not just in the future, but today.
Date of Award
© Shannon Doherty
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Doherty, Shannon, "Grumpy Cat On Hump Day: Animals' Effects On Mind, Body, and Spirit--And What We Ought to Do About It" (2014). Student Publications. 592.