Science proves that the dog-shaming meme is bogus

Now if science proves cats aren't grumpy, the Internet may very well collapse.


Mike Fenn

Internet Culture

Published Feb 27, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 5:04 pm CDT

If you have ever taken part in the “dogshaming” meme, it has now been revealed that you are the one who should be ashamed.

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Most memes out there are pointless already. The dogshaming meme, however, may have had its pointlessness verified by this simple fact: Dogs are incapable of feeling shameful.

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While we may soon know what dogs are thinking, it’s a possibility that actual guilt will never register. A recent piece discussed the findings of Alexandra Horowitz, an associate professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City, who conducted a study about dog guilt in 2009 for her book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. (Amazingly, the content of the book was not just page after page of the word “food.”)

“I found that the ‘look’ appeared most often when owners scolded their dogs, regardless of whether the dog had disobeyed or did something for which they might or should feel guilty. It wasn’t ‘guilt’ but a reaction to the owner that prompted the look,” Horowitz said.

But she went on to point out: “I am not saying that dogs might not feel guilt, just that the ‘guilty look’ is not an indication of it.” She also points out that “guilt” and “shame” are two very different feelings.

Some of the images participating in the dog-shaming meme seem to prove this conclusion. How often have you come across another entry into the “dog shaming” realm where the dog is sitting there, its guilty acts hanging around its neck, grinning like an idiot?

Photo via Dog Shaming

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Now if science proves that cats are never grumpy, the Internet may very well collapse.

H/T / Photo via NatalieMaynor/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Feb 27, 2014, 6:28 pm CST