Q: What are some ways that I can enhance my approachability beyond dressing well?
A: One study found evidence that men who are dressed well are even more approachable in public if they have a pet dog. Dogs enhance fashion!
- A study was published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2000 on the effects of having a dog in public, specifically on whether it makes people more approachable.
- Previous research had confirmed that pets, including dogs, are generally good for people’s psychological and physical well-being.
- Some of this effect may be the result of pets enhancing a person’s contact with other people. We know for sure that stronger social connections are good for a person’s health. Do pets enhance this effect?
- Do pets also enhance how people are viewed by others? Do dogs make a person seem happier, friendlier, or more approachable?
- What about using a dog as an “ice breaker” for people in public?
- Two researchers in Warwick, England sought out to test these questions with a series of two experiments.
- The researchers recruited a Labrador retriever from a dog training center that was known for being quiet and unobtrusive.
- They then paired that dog with an experimenter and they did all life activities together for 5 days.
- The experimenter took kids to school, took public transportation to her university, attended lectures, etc.
- Then, the experimenter went back to her normal activities without the dog for an additional 5 days.
- During the 10 days of the experiment, the experimenter recorded:
- Number of social interactions she had
- The length of the social interactions
- The sex of the people she interacted with
- Whether the people she interacted with were friends, acquaintances, or strangers
With dog: The experimenter had 156 encounters:
- 34 friends
- 57 acquaintances
- 65 strangers
Without dog: The experimenter only had 50 encounters:
- 26 friends
- 21 acquaintances
- 3 strangers
Having the dog didn’t increase the average length of encounters – just the number of how many there were.
Conclusion: Having a dog significantly increased the number of encounters she had with all types of people, and ESPECIALLY strangers and acquaintances.
The dog was working as an “ice breaker” to help the experimenter come into more contact with people she didn’t know as well. She was more approachable.
In this experiment, the researchers wondered whether the appearance of the dog’s handler made a difference.
Specifically, would a “sharp dressed man” have even more luck meeting people with a dog? Or did clothing matter?
For this one, they chose a man to be the dog’s handler.
The man was assigned to go to four locations in the center of a small English city. There were four experimental conditions, and the man mixed up the various combinations:
Fashionable clothing (sports jacket, collared shirt, tie, pressed trousers, and the dog had a matching leash and collar)
Shabby clothing (torn and dirty jeans, scuffed work boots, old t-shirt, stained donkey jacket, and the dog’s leash was a rope)
- With “scruffy” dog (rope leash)
- With “neat” dog (fashionable matching leash and collar)
- Without dog
In each place, the man and an independent observer standing at a distance recorded how many people interacted with him and what kind of interactions they were. The interactions could be:
Non-verbal (smiles, nods, etc.)
The man also recorded the length of the interactions. The man’s and the observer’s interactions were compared to ensure accuracy and consistency.
- Fashionable vs. Shabby:
- When the man was wearing fashionable clothing, he received a total of 705 interactions.
- When the man was wearing shabby clothing, he received 465 interactions.
- Therefore, fashionable clothing made the man seem significantly more approachable.
- Dog vs. No Dog
- Having a dog resulted in over 500 total interactions.
- Having no dog resulted in just 57 interactions.
- Having a dog significantly increased the man’s interactions, making him seem much more approachable.
- Mixed conditions:
- A fashionably-dressed man had more interactions with the dog than without the dog. It didn’t matter whether the dog seemed “shabby” or not.
- Thus, having a dog AND being fashionable resulted in the highest approachability ratings of all conditions.
- What’s the take away from this study?
- Having a dog seemed to make people more approachable.
- This is especially true for strangers and acquaintances.
- It also shows that men who are more fashionably dressed are more approachable in public.
- But significantly, when a man is fashionable, having a dog increases his approachability even further.
- It doesn’t matter if the dog is “fancy” or rough-looking.
- If you’re looking for ways to seem more approachable and friendly in public, try two things: fashionable dress, and get yourself a dog!
McNicholas, J., & Collis, G. (2000). Dogs as catalysts for social interactions: Robustness of the effect. British Journal of Psychology, 91, 61-70. Link: https://www.researchgate.net