Dreading that group project? Research shows a dog can help
By Justyne Yuen-Lee
Wouldn’t work be ten times better if this pup was there with you? Science proves that it definitely is better if he was!
We all know that the working world is constantly changing. It has evolved from a slow, consistent, individually based job to fast-paced, ever-changing group work for bigger and more efficient projects. Gone are the days of the scientific method and assembly line. Business and organizations are demanding jobs to be done by many people with their own specialized skill sets to work together. But these groups are temporary and have deadlines – therefore it is difficult to grow accustom to your members and team-building exercises lack intimacy and are usually separate from the actually work progress.
So how do dogs shake up the situation?
Since it’s been seen that dogs already impact moods and interaction in a positive way, Michigan University psychologists conducted a study where they expected this would also be true in a work group setting. Colarelli, S., McDonald, A., Christensen, M., and Honts, C. conducted three studies in total. Two studies involved participants working out problems with or without and companion dog, and the third involved random observers measuring the group dynamics in video recordings.
Could you imagine it being mandatory or even just allowed to have a dog present in your work or school project? We’d definitely sign up for that job or class in a heartbeat!
The first study involved groups of four people who had an interactive problem-solving task. Participants were separated randomly in to dog present or dog absent groups. Three dogs were randomly assigned to the dog present groups – only one dog at a time. The results in this study showed the group member expressed more verbal cohesion, physical intimacy, and cooperation.
Dogs might not look like they’re doing much – but apparently they’re doing a lot. They’re team builders just by their existence!
The second study was identical to the first study; however, the task assigned to the groups was a decision-making task. The dog-present groups exhibited the same results as the first – verbal cohesion, physical intimacy, cooperation and trustworthiness. Overall, these two studies showed that the dog present groups were more cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic, and attentive.
In the third study, individuals were randomly assigned to watch 40-second slices of recordings of the study groups. They were not aware if a dog was present or not and the sound was muted. Based on the physical body language, the individuals judged the emotional states of the participants. They accurately judged the emotions of the people in the study using one-word descriptors that were all positive for the dog-present groups.
Norbert is all dressed up and ready to go work in the office. Who knew a pupper so small can make such a big difference?
Even though observers only watched 40 second slices of videos, there were significant differences on ratings on all six indicators: cooperative, friendly, comfortable, active, enthusiastic, and attentive. This proves the thesis Collarelli et al, had, that having a dog present in group situations boosts the effectiveness, true.
So just pick a pup, any pup and dress them up in business attire to accompany you in your next group assignment! It’ll definitely help.
Of course there are limitations of this study.
There may be some people with phobias of dogs or even allergies meaning that some work places cannot have them present. Companion dogs, however, are relatively low-maintenance to have in the office. Other than the occasional treat, water, and a washroom break walk, they can be there all day within petting distance of workers.
But some dogs may fall asleep and the snoring may either disrupt the workplace or entertain it! And of course, we’re all secretly jealous of their afternoon nap.
Group work is on the rise in both work and educational settings. Organizations have more complex problems with solutions that can no longer be solved by one person, but a group of people with a diverse skill set. Additionally due to the global nature of most organizations, people all over the world must work together for a complex problem in a short amount of time. Tasks are project-based and once completed, groups are no longer needed.
Sometimes you just need a face to squish to release all the frustration and tension group work gives you! As long as you do it gently, it’ll at least give you a smile.
Overall, the prominence, diverse memberships, and temporary nature of group work demands comfortable interaction amongst members. Team-building exercise are usually infrequent and costly to companies. Having a companion dog present for the duration of group projects is a relatively simple solution to this problem. Dogs are known to be therapeutic and positively affect interaction between people, and thus, for all dog lovers or dog appreciators, more research should be done!
Bring on the generation of puppies to be trained to be office dogs! We’re waiting for you!
Do you bring your dog to work with you? Let us know in the comments below.