Humans are biased about pretty much everything, including, it turns out, animals.
The study asked 135 Americans to rate animals for warmth and competence, two factors that have been shown to play a major role in how we view almost everything. In short, we feel admiration for things rated warm and competent; contempt for the cold and incompetent; pity for the warm and incompetent; and envy for the cold and competent.
It turns out humans admire the hell out of dogs, with cats, horses, and monkeys as runners-up. These animals were grouped in the study as “companion” animals.
Meanwhile, lions, tigers, and bears — the “predators” — are seen as fairly competent but cold. The likes of rabbits, hamsters, and ducks — “prey” — are seen as warm but incompetent. Fish, lizards, snakes — called, perhaps unfairly, “pests” — are seen as cold and incompetent.
Animal stereotyping, as with most stereotyping, can be harmful if unchecked. As Fiske and Sevillano note: “[T]he negative image of hyenas in the United States makes them a perfect target for aggressive human practices. Recently, the image of wolves in the Unites States has suffered the same fate.”