Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Raising Up the Science Behind the Human-Animal Bond

November 12th, 2020

This post is part of the blog tour hosted by the Association of University Presses in celebration of University Press week. To see the rest of the posts in the tour, click here.

The theme of University Press Week this year is Raise UP, this theme highlights the role that the university press community plays in elevating authors, subjects, and whole disciplines that bring new perspectives, ideas, and voices to readers around the globe. The theme for today’s blog tour is “scientific voices”, and we’re highlighting our book series New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond.

The idea that animals can have a positive impact on humans is not a new one. Pets are an accepted part of life and at places like college campuses you’ll often see events held with puppies, kittens, and other adorable animals intended to boost morale during especially stressful times. Unfortunately, many still balk when they hear terms like “emotional support animal”, when reactions can range from citing a “lack of scientific evidence” to accusing owners of using the term to get a “normal pet” into places they would otherwise not be allowed.

Fortunately, research continues to be done that can provide powerful testimonial to the relationship between humans and animals. Our book series New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond provides an outlet to this research, and sheds light on the many benefits that it can offer.

“There are many important things that have emerged from recent human-animal interaction research.” said Maggie E. O’Haire, Associate Professor of Human-Animal Interaction at Purdue University and one of the series editors of the series. “For me, I am always excited to see quantifiable metrics for behavior and physiology that are impacted by interactions with animals. For example, our recent work identified that veterans with service dogs show a different pattern in their stress response hormone cortisol.”

O’Haire contributed a chapter to last year’s book Transforming Trauma: Resilience and Healing Through Our Connections With Animals edited by Philip Tedeschi and Molly Anne Jenkins. A perfect example of the positive impact the series makes, the authors examine research developments, models, and practical applications of human-animal connection and animal-assisted intervention for diverse populations who have experienced trauma.

“In a field that has historically been characterized by a reliance on emotional intuition, our goal is to bring strong science to understanding how, why, and when the human-animal bond can influence human mental health and wellness. The Purdue University Press series on New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond offers exciting and engaging scholarly resources to address the latest topics in the field.” said O’Haire. “I am also constantly inspired by the pioneering work of our Center Director, Dr. Alan Beck, who has paved the way to answer many of the questions current scholars pose.”

Beck, the director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, is a longtime expert on the dynamic relationship between people and animals and how each influences the psychological and physiological state of the other. He’s also the other series editor for New Directions in the Human Animal Bond and has even contributed a few books himself.

“All indications are that companion animals play the role of a family member, often, a member with the most desired attributes. Ordinary interactions with animals can reduce blood pressure and improve survival after a heart attack. Animal contact can improve mood, encourage exercise, and help people better deal with stress. Pets, for some, afford increased opportunities to meet people, while for others; pets permit people to be alone without being lonely.” said Beck. “When done correctly, the interaction benefits both people and the animals—a bond that is significant and mutual.”

Clearly there is no shortage of interaction between humans and animals, and our series seeks to represent the breadth of research being done. Some recent books include:

The impact of this research is clear, and Purdue University Press hopes our role in lifting up the voices of these researchers and authors will help many reap the benefits. Alan Beck may put it best.

“People benefit from their relationship with nature and the living world, and for many it is their relationship with tame and domesticated animals. Every culture has some version of the relationship. Our companion animals permit people to continue to enjoy their inborn desires to nurture throughout their life.”

You can read more about the series and find out more about the process for submissions on our website.

You can learn more about Maggie O’Haire’s research with veterans and service dogs here.

You can get 30% off human-animal bond books, and all other Purdue University Press titles by entering the code PURDUE30 at checkout on our website.

Other #UPWeek blog posts:

University of Alabama Press
#RaisingUP Scientific Voices with NEXUS Series
A conversation with series editors Alan Marcus, Alexandra Hui, and Mark Hersey

Purdue University Press
Raising Up the Science behind the Human-Animal Bond

Princeton University Press
Six Impossible Things
Ingrid Gnerlich

Bristol University Press
The Relevance of Science Communication in the Era of COVID
Claire Wilkinson

Indiana University Press
Science and Critical Thinking
Donald R. Prothero

University of Toronto Press
Science Writing in a Time of Crisis
Mireille F. Ghoussoub
Scientific Trust in the Era of COVID-19
Lacey Cranston

Vanderbilt University Press
Stories from the Natural World
A book trailer for Between the Rocks and the Stars

Columbia University Press
6 Things to Consider before Applying to PhD Programs
Ashley Juavinett

Oregon State University Press
Rebuilding Ecological Resilience
Bruce A. Byers