Saturday, July 27, 2013

Are dogs our greatest fear or man’s best friend?

In a very curious blog post on May 17th (and a similar post at Q9 on July 25th) Ian Gotts claimed that:

“In a recent survey of fears, dogs came top, but public speaking was above dying. So people would rather die that (sic) speak in public, which is absurd if you knew how easy it is to overcome your fear of speaking.

I don’t recall ever seeing a survey like that, but Ian didn’t tell us who did it, or when and where it was reported. The endlessly quoted 1973 Bruskin survey ranked fear of public speaking (40.6%) first, fear of death (18.7%) seventh, and fear of dogs (11.2%) as 10th.   

I think dogs are liked rather than feared by most people. On June 17th Public Policy Polling released their Animals and Pets Poll: Americans Prefer Dogs; Fear Snakes. One question they asked a sample of 603 registered American voters was:

Q19: What do you think is the scariest animal: alligators, bats, bears, cockroaches, tigers, sharks, snakes, spiders, wolves, or something else?

Results were that 21% feared snakes, 19% feared alligators, 18% feared sharks, 14% feared bears, 11% feared cockroaches, 9% feared tigers, 5% feared bats, 2% feared spiders, 1% feared wolves, and 0% feared something else (which would include dogs).

Later in that blog post Mr. Gotts also claimed that:

“In fact 38% of communication is tone of voice. Only 7% is what you actually say. The remaining 55% is physiology; body language, how you look, where you stand. (The original study  was Birtwhistle and Mahrabian).”

I think he meant to refer to Ray L. Birdwhistell (who is discussed in the Wikipedia article on kinesics) and Albert Mehrabian (who is the source for those specific percentages commonly misquoted as the Mehrabian Myth). I blogged about Bullfighting the Mehrabian Myth back on July 25, 2009.

I made the image of a military dog barking scarier by editing out his chain.

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