Perception of Dog Breeds, Dog Traits, and Implicit Associations


  • Megan Riley MacEwan University


Implicit biases are defined as one’s negative or positive thoughts, feelings, actions, and attributes that one holds towards another individual or group that are formed by attitudes held subconsciously in one’s mind. Stereotyping, racism, prejudice and discrimination are all negative outcomes that can result from these biases. Unfortunately, Pitbull-type dogs (PTD) have been the center of Breed-Specific Legislative Bans (BSL) resulting in stigmatization towards both the dog breed and dog-owner. These BSLs are a prominent example of how explicit biases, that is, attitudes that are conscious and deliberate exist within our society; however, it is unknown how much of these biases are implicit. Due to this discrepancy, this study will test both implicit and explicit biases towards PTD when compared with a stereotypical family dog breed, such as Golden Retrievers (GR). To measure these biases, this study will use the Implicit Association Test (IAT) which has been deemed the gold-standard test for implicit attitudes. In addition to the IAT, this study will implement a self-reported Likert-scale to capture participant’s explicit biases which will be used to compare scores between each measure. As such, it is hypothesized that people will have negative biases toward PTD and will associate them with negative dog traits, whereas people will have positive biases towards GR and will associate them with positive dog traits. We propose that self-reported measures will reflect opposing results towards PTD but not for GR. Identification of implicit biases can have important implications for promoting adoptions for dogs subject to BSLs such as PTDs.

Department: Psychology 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Eric Legge