Dogs Show Envy–Researchers, Journalist Show Emotional Immaturity

Austrian researchers tested pairs of dogs to see what would happen when one dog received a better treat for doing the same trick another dog did and found out that when treated unfairly, dogs react.

The researchers took pairs of domestic dogs and asked them to do a simple trick: give me your paw. The first dog would do the trick then the second dog would do the trick but in doing the trick would receive a sausage treat. When researchers tried to get the first dog to give their paw again, the dog would refuse. (When both dogs were rewarded “all was well” and it didn’t matter if the reward was different for each dog.)

This reaction, according to the researchers and/or the media, is a sign of envy.

How is responding to being treated poorly or unfairly a sign of envy or jealousy? (As said in many of the news reports on this topic.) And if that is a sign of envy please explain why. Couldn’t this just be a sign that dogs like to be treated fairly?

The preference for fairness in society is what allows society to maintain cooperation with each other. Unfair gains make people unhappy, it creates a tension in society where one person can justify bad behavior. Basically, “Why should I care if I am doing this unfairly? Everyone and their mom is already doing it, ” and labeling a reaction to unfairness as jealousy or envy just gives rise to self-entitlement. “If they were smart enough, they’d be doing this too. They’re just jealous of my greatness.”

And if a sense of fairness isn’t a big deal, then why not let corporations do as they please ?

Others may say, “Who cares if things are unfair? You should remain morally steadfast in your own resolve to do good despite that” Tell that to the execs at Enron and the others who benefit from exploiting capitalism; like employers who misclassify their employees so they don’t have to pay health benefits. Am I envious because I have an issue with that? Am I jealous of their ability to exploit the cooperative kindness of others? I don’t think I am.

And if you find yourself in a situation where you think someone is acting in an unkind manner towards you because they are jealous or envious of someone or something else, take a minute to ask yourself (or the person) if you are being fair (or maybe you’ve been unfair) to them.

It could create a lot of kindness, forgiveness, and respect in the afflicted party.

I think the only reasonable conclusion made on this topic comes from Clive Wynne, an associate psychology professor from the University of Florida, who said:

What it means is individuals are responding negatively to being treated less well

Do you think the researchers are correct? Have your say in the comments.


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