Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of science... the thrill of discovery... and the agony of failed experiments... the human drama of scientific advancement... This is the Blue Streak Science Podcast!

Jul 11, 2019

Do we love our pets, or what? Today’s episode is sure to please many of our canine family members. It may also annoy more than a few felines in the audience, though I suspect their reactions will be more toward haughty indifference. 

On This Week’s Show

  • Why people seem to match up so well with their pets
  • How we can tell if someone or some thing is conscious
  • Why our dogs are so frightened of fireworks

Science News with Nevena Hristozova and Chris MacAlister

Why pet people's personalities match those of their pets

Nevena Hristozova

  • First, using online questionnaires to establish the main traits of one’s personality, Sam Gosling from the University of Texas established, that there is partial truth in the common conception that there are dog-people and that there are cat-people and that in general, the personalities of dog people differ from those of cat people.
  • “Compared to cat people, dog people tend to be more extroverted, agreeable and conscientious, and less neurotic and open,” says Gosling. That means they tend to be cooperative, goal oriented and, perhaps surprisingly, more empathic and thoughtful than cat people. Self-confessed cat people, meanwhile, were more likely to say that they disliked structure and agendas.The biggest surprise was that they were also more adventurous and unconventional than dog people – something you might not expect of more neurotic, introverted types.
  • These character distinctions go even further – they vary sometimes with the breeds and the different qualities we attach to them.
  • Next, researchers developed a personality test for the animals – obv one that is being filled-in by the pet-owner.
  • Based on those two personality tests (owner and pet) a study found that the personalities of owners are more similar to those of their dogs than to those of their friends or spouses.
  • Obviously each pet owner is convinced their pet is the most amazing, smart, cute, loving and loyal pet in the history of pets. But what if we actually attribute our own qualities to our pets?
  • On one-hand, obviously, some pet breeds are preferred by their new owners exactly for their specific qualities.
  • On the other hand though, it seems that pets character gets influenced a lot by the one of their owner and carer. 
  • “With higher neuroticism were more likely to have pets suffering from a range of issues, including obesity and stress-related illnesses,” says Daniel Mills at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Sources: New Scientist


How Can You Tell if Someone (or Something) Is Conscious?

Chris MacAlister

  • Psychologist Tam Hunt of the University of California, Santa Barbara has written a piece for Live Science about the work that she has been doing Johnathan Schooler, another psychologist from the same institute. 
  • They are building a framework that will allow for a more nuanced assessment of consciousness, and there are various measures that they are using to assess this. Since there are no direct measures of consciousness available, they are instead having to look for indirect measures.
  • Possibly the closest thing that we have to a direct measurement of consciousness are brainwaves. Not only do these waves show great correlation to normal conscious states, but they are also a good indicator of whether vegetative or minimally conscious patients are likely to make significant recoveries. Such tests have been used to assess newborns, who perform reassuringly well.
  • Possibly one of the biggest changes in this field is the attitude toward animal consciousness. For years this has been an absolute no, no, with any credit being accused as anthropomorphism. But any cat or dog owner will swear blind that that their pet has feelings and it seems like academics are finally starting to pull their fingers out their ears and stop going “la-la-la, I can’t hear you” and are actually starting to address the question rather than dismiss it. 
  • The correlation between the behaviours of conscious beings like us and other mammals cannot be overlooked. Their brains may not be the same as ours but then, maybe their consciousness isn’t either. There is no doubt that human consciousness is remarkable, but it may not be the only show in town, and once you start considering that this entire field gets a whole lot more interesting.
  • But what about the machines? One symptom of consciousness is its ability to leave an intentional physical impression of itself. Art is a great measure of this and it’s something that AI is already having a rather successful pop at. So much so that an Art-Turing test is fast becoming a realistic prospect.
  • The final approach involves information. If you consider any system that processes information as having some level of consciousness (including your microwave) however small, you can start the quantity things. But it’s not all about processing power. Remember we are also looking for patterns and synchrony in the information handling.

Sources: Live Science


Why Dogs Hate Fireworks, and How You Can Help Them

Nevena Hristozova

  • Fireworks are terrifying for most pets, but especially for dogs. 
  • That’s because for dogs, like it is for humans, loud noises are usually associated with danger.
  • The main difference is – dogs are not such idiots to blow stuff up for fun, nor do they know what on earth we all of the sudden are.
  • Much like in my previous story, different breeds do different things to cope with the stress of the firework noise and light – some pace nervously, others hide, some whine.
  • And like with people, stress in animals can have long lasting effects, so if you see unusual behaviour esp in response to noises you might want to take your pupper to the vet to be on the safe side.
  • Some dogs, especially older, start associating noise with pain since due to the stress some muscles might get thence and wake up elderly aches, which can make your dog ultra sensitive every time there’s noise and make its ageing worse and painful.
  • In some cases, spraying calming pheromones in a dark and quieter room can help your pup to find a safe place from the annoying celebrations. 
  • Also, if your pet seems to feel comforted by it, give it attention, hold and pet it to console its scared soul.
  • And make sure you give it some tasty treats to make up for the weird human habit of blowing their world up every time there’s a big holiday.

In Other Science News this Week


In Closing

That concludes this episode of the Blue Streak Science Podcast.

If you have any suggestions or comments email us at podcast@bluestreakscience.com

You can subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast or any other podcast player of your choice.  

If you have an iOS device like an iPhone or an iPad you can get the Blue Streak Science app from the App Store. 

Our hosts today were Nevena Hristozova and Chris MacAlister.

I’m JD Goodwin.  

Thank you for joining us. 

And remember…follow the science!