Dianne Balfour (1993) A Positive Response to "the Inevitable Bond" was not Inevitable. Psycoloquy: 4(54) Human Animal Bond (7)

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Psycoloquy 4(54): A Positive Response to "the Inevitable Bond" was not Inevitable

Reply to Bekoff, Shapiro, Faulkes, Innis, Zentall on Human-Animal-Bond

Dianne Balfour
Ministry of Health
1515 Blanshard St.
Victoria, British Columbia

Hank Davis
Department of Psychology
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario



The consistently positive tone of the reviews is pleasing but surprising. Many of our contributors took professional risks in providing the information that appears in The Inevitable Bond. Bekoff notes in his review, the topic of TIB is one about which many scientists would rather think than talk. It appeared that thinking about these issues was itself not a comfortable mode for some colleagues. We believed the time for reenacting the emperor's new clothes was past. It was for this reason that we wrote The Inevitable Bond: to stimulate discussion and promote further research. The responses of our colleagues in PSYCOLOQUY suggest that our perception was not unique.


Human-animal bond, human-animal interactions, relationships, scientist-animal interactions, animal psychology, behavioral research, attachment, human-nonhuman relationships, behavioral arousal, rhesus monkeys, pongid pedagogy, ape cognition, automated avoidance, pseudohabitutation.
1. To date, PSYCOLOQUY has published five reviews of our book, THE INEVITABLE BOND (henceforth TIB, Davis & Balfour 1992). The consistently positive tone of these reviews suggests that the timing of our book could not have been better. Apparently, TIB addresses issues that many of our reviewers feel were hitherto neglected. However, the fact that there are relatively few substantive disagreements with the book's content could suggest that we are simply preaching to the converted. If this is indeed the case, it would seem that the conversion occurred at a rather well attended and secret ceremony.

2. Given the controversial nature of some of the chapters, we expected to see some significant rebuttals. But the lack of conceptual or logical opposition has occurred not only in the reviews published to date in PSYCOLOQUY and elsewhere, but also in the response to colloquia presented by one of TIB's authors (Davis). Prior to the publication of TIB, there was a palpable resistance to a number of the book's fundamental premises. What has happened to this opposition? Among the kinder adjectives previously heard were "heretical" and "trouble-making." No one to date has carried such opposition into print. This validation has taken us by surprise. In essence, the strongest criticism in the five reviews published by PSYCOLOQUY has been technical in nature; e.g., our lack of an author index (guilty as charged), and our use of a commercial title that may lead to misunderstanding (guilty with an explanation). No one has come forward to say things like "Scientists do NOT -- by virtue of their repeated interactions with animals -- affect the nature of the data they collect." Moreover, at no point in this journal, or in any review published to date, has there been a cry of "Much ado about nothing." Rather, the message seems to be "Yes, these are legitimate concerns and it's about time we formalized the treatment of this issue." This is what we hoped TIB would accomplish. If critical reaction to date is typical, we will have more allies than we expected in the battle.

3. It is interesting to note the divergence of opinion concerning particular chapters. The chapters by Estep & Hetts and by Lehman received both praise and criticism. Both chapters attempt to provide an overview of our subject. Perhaps such differences of opinion are inevitable, given the onerous task of providing an overview of what is essentially a new area of study.

4. The structure of the book has also been both praised and criticized. Faulkes (1993 [1.1]) compliments us on the coherence we provide to the book's 24 chapters, organizing them into "powerful motifs." Zentall (1993 [9]), on the other hand, suggests that we might have grouped the chapters along more explicitly defined themes.

5. We hope Bekoff (1993 [1]) is right in his belief that TIB will "force scientists to come to terms with how they interact with the nonhuman animals they study." Bekoff himself reiterates many of the points addressed in TIB. For example, the idea [3] that not allowing bonds to form with certain animals may in and of itself represent a significant stress which may in turn influence research is a theme which several authors addressed (e.g. Kostarczyk, Lehman). Such potential stress should be a source of concern for any scientist dealing with domestic species or primates.

6. Bekoff [4] discusses anthropomorphism at length and emerges as a clear advocate for the use of anthropomorphic terms. As such, he takes issue with Estep & Hetts's admonition that "Scientists must keep a constant vigil against anthropomorphic thinking and interpretation when performing animal research." Bekoff [5] also criticizes Estep & Hetts's "confused conception of anthropomorphism." In fact, their discussion of anthropomorphism occurs as part of a review of Hediger's concept of assimilation tendency and his use of the terms anthropomorphism and zoomorphism. The topic of anthropomorphism is clearly a difficult one. Most of us learned early in our training to regard "anthropomorphism" as an obvious taboo for the rational, objective scientist. Any hint of anthropomorphism was tantamount to identifying oneself as uneducated or unsophisticated. Shifting from this traditional perspective to the "critical anthropomorphism" advocated by Burghardt will not be easy. How do we train young scientists to avoid the sort of uncritical anthropomorphism which leads to interpreting the dolphin's gape as a smile, yet encourage them to form bonds with their research animals and to recognize when anthropomorphic explanations are appropriate? At the very least, we must recognize that "critical anthropomorphism" requires a sophisticated understanding of species-specific communication systems and how signals are used in intraspecific social relationships.

7. We hope that Bekoff's comments on anecdotes (6) do not give readers the impression that TIB gives "bad press" to anecdotes. In fact, the viewpoint espoused by Bekoff is expressed throughout the book, most notably in the chapter by Fentress. Again, we have shunned the categorical rejection of anecdotes for a more open-minded yet critical use of the strategy. It is virtually impossible to work closely with animal subjects and not come away with anecdotal data. However, these anecdotes are not ends in themselves. The use to which they are put within the scientific process is a major theme of our book.

8. Bekoff [7], along with a number of our contributors, wonders whether humans form bonds with some species more readily than others. Most researchers assume that humans are more likely to bond to similar species in part because we are more likely to recognize similarities in signals used for intraspecific and interspecific communication. Bekoff's own research experience with both canids and birds [7] suggests that this assumption may be too simplistic. Clearly, the answers to such questions will remain speculative until they have been subjected to more rigorous scrutiny.

9. One intriguing topic which Bekoff [9] discusses, but which our book dealt with only in passing, is the correlation between types of research and attitudes towards animals. Many ethologists are quick to assure people that the research they do has little in common with that of scientists whose research requires restraint, surgical intervention, and "sacrificing." There is an implicit assumption that people who really like animals simply don't do certain types of research. Needless to say, such feelings are rarely expressed without eliciting emotional rebuttals. This is clearly an area worthy of investigation by those interested in the psychology/sociology of science.

10. We agree completely with Bekoff's call [12] for more detailed study of the bonds (and effects thereof) that develop between field researchers and the animals they study. One of the more frustrating aspects of editing this book was a reluctance to contribute on the part of a number of field researchers. Over and over, we talked to field researchers who insisted that they didn't have anything to contribute, but then regaled us with anecdotes on the subject. Caine's results will no doubt make many a field researcher reevaluate just how "habituated" their subjects are to the presence of a human observer. One of us (Balfour) remembers only too well her apprehension when some of her ground squirrel subjects (usually yearlings) appeared to be going out of their way to forage in her vicinity. She also remembers the reluctance of her colleagues to explore such a possibility.

11. It came as no surprise that at least one of our reviewers would object to the title "The Inevitable Bond." The pros and cons of using this admittedly catchy title were discussed at some length. The consensus was that the pros outweighed the cons. The fact that the term bond is used in the pop psychology literature is not a reason for shunning it. Arguably, by drawing a misguided analogy to "male bonding," Innis (1993) herself has either been distracted by the seductive demons of pop psychology, or has missed the essential point of our book. We argue quite clearly that the term bond appropriately conveys the broad range of scientist-animal interactions which are covered in the book. Unlike Innis, Zentall [1] clearly understood our reasons for using the term "bond." Thus, the term bond may be loosely used to encompass the continuum of scientist-animal interactions ranging from an animal's detection of the glint of sun from binoculars to a complex, reciprocal affiliative relationship.

12. Innis [2] describes Lehman's chapter as "by far the weakest" -- apparently because she objects to his focus on bonds as affiliative relationships. The fact that this particular chapter concentrates on one aspect of the scientist-animal relationship, however, is hardly the same as "subsuming the important issues raised in this book as simply love-hate relationships between animals and researchers." Other reviewers -- notably Bekoff and Zentall - managed to see beyond Lehman's terminology to find valuable observations on anthropomorphism and ethics. As we note in our introduction, the decision not to restrict our contributors' use of the term bond to a single, binding definition was deliberate.

13. In his praise of Estep & Hetts's chapter, Zentall [5] refers to their observation that the more knowledge scientists have about the natural behaviour and behavioural capacities of the animal, the less likely they will be to anthropomorphize. As with many of the observations based primarily on anecdote in TIB, this hypothesis has yet to be rigorously tested. Zentall [6] also emphasizes one of the more radical suggestions of our book: that it would be a pyrrhic victory to hide behind automation in order to avoid bonding effects. In some situations, it is plainly worth the risk to interact with our subjects in order to expand our understanding of them as well as of our subject matter. Zentall has provided an excellent summary of the risks and rewards of this approach, which is typified in the chapters by Burghardt and Fentress.

14. Like Bekoff, Shapiro (1993 [4]) praises TIB for addressing an issue which, in his words, "will result in a more veridical and useful understanding of animals and human-animal relations." He echoes our concern that failure to acknowledge bonding effects imperils our understanding of a wide range of issues. Shapiro [3] calls the recognition of TIB "belated" and laments the attitude that preceded such awareness as "a profound embarrassment." He concludes [4] by noting the book's implications for animal welfare, a concern that remained implicit in most chapters, except Lehman's.

15. Faulkes (1993 [2.5]) raises an important issue which, in retrospect, might have been addressed more directly in the book: the problem of what constitutes acceptable scientific evidence when working with animals. The complexities of relationships between scientists and animals may mean that certain results are unlikely to be repeatable without a specific relationship between scientist and animal. There are numerous examples of this possibility in our book (e.g. research by Burghardt, Pepperberg, Boysen). The fact that details about a relationship between scientist and animal are rarely included in published papers makes repeatability that much more unlikely. If nothing else, we would hope that our book encourages scientists to describe their interactions and relationships with their subjects as honestly as possible. Such descriptions should be considered an important component of any paper's method section.

16. Faulkes [3.2] also emphasizes the importance of understanding what our animals are attending to. As several of the examples in the book illustrate, human assumptions about animal perceptions are often misguided. Here is a prime example of the fine line between critical and naive anthropomorphism: most humans would undoubtedly assume that being caught by a machine would be more stressful to a chicken than being caught by human hands, but, as Duncan points out, they would be wrong.

17. We are delighted to see Innis [11] recommending our book to young researchers. We too hope the ideas presented will provide a stimulus for future work and provide a counterbalance to the prevailing reluctance to acknowledge the importance of scientist-animal interactions.

18. In sum, we are pleased, if a bit surprised, at the consistently positive peer review our book has evoked. Many of our contributors took professional risks in providing the information that appears in The Inevitable Bond. As Bekoff [1] notes in his review, the topic of TIB is one about which many scientists would rather think than talk. In truth, our experience was even more conservative. It appeared that thinking about these issues was itself not a comfortable mode for some colleagues. We believed the time for reenacting the emperor's new clothes was past. It was for this reason that we wrote The Inevitable Bond: to stimulate discussion and promote further research. The responses of our colleagues in PSYCOLOQUY suggest that our perception was not unique. Indeed, it appears that a number of commentators have picked up the torch and run with it even further in their reviews than we did in our book.


Bekoff, M. (1993) Should scientists bond with the animals they use? Why not? PSYCOLOQUY 4(37) human-animal bond.2.

Davis, H. (1993) Precis of "The Inevitable Bond" (Davis & Balfour 1992) PSYCOLOQUY 4(12) human-animal-bond.1

Davis, H. and Balfour, D. (1992) (Eds.) The Inevitable Bond. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Faulkes, Zen (1993) Who watches the watchmen? Our animals and ourselves. PSYCOLOQUY 4(41) human-animal bond.5

Innis, Nancy K. (1993) Why Bond? PSYCOLOQUY 4(41) human-animal bond.5

Shapiro, Kenneth (1993) Scientist-Animal Bond: Better late than never. PSYCOLOQUY 4(38) human-animal bond.3

Zentall, Thomas R. (1993) Experimenter-subject interaction: a fresh approach. PSYCOLOQUY 4(48) human-animal bond.6

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