Event Title

College Students’ Attitudes Toward Service and Emotional Support Animals on Campus

Poster Number

081

Faculty Mentor

Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of Psychology

Location

Richardson Ballroom – DiGiorgio Campus Center

Start Date

12-4-2019 2:15 PM

End Date

April 2019

Description

The presence of emotional support animals (ESA) has dramatically increased on college campuses. Despite the increased prevalence, there are misconceptions, controversies, and concerns regarding the value and rights of ESA, even among psychologists and university counselors. Thus, we examined college students’ perceptions of service animals (SA) and ESA. We hypothesized that acceptance would be higher for SA than for ESA, and that personal experience with pets and mental health issues would predict increased acceptance of ESA. Participants were 101 young adults (74% women; 54% Caucasian) with a mean age of 21.0 (SD = 4.25). Participants randomly encountered one of two scenarios describing a classroom situation where either a service dog or an emotional support dog was present and were asked to evaluate the appropriateness of the situation. Participants then completed a knowledge quiz related to ESA, SA, and the ADA. Next, participants responded to questions to assess their personal attitudes toward assistance animals, the GAD-7 to assess recent anxiety symptoms, and questions about their experience with mental health issues and pets. In support of our first hypothesis, we found that people were less supportive of ESA owners than SA owners. Participants were generally supportive of SA. In contrast, ESA acceptance was predicted by increased knowledge, experience with ESAs, and mental health issues. In addition, mere exposure to a scenario about an ESA in a college classroom resulted in more openness to ESA in college classrooms. In contrast to our hypothesis, pet ownership was not a useful predictor.

Previously Presented/Performed?

Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) Annual Meeting, Jacksonville, Florida, March 2019

Awards Won

Winner, Psi Chi Regional Research Award, SEPA Annual Meeting, March 2019

Course Assignment

PSYC 302 – Sleigh

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Apr 12th, 2:15 PM Apr 12th, 4:15 PM

College Students’ Attitudes Toward Service and Emotional Support Animals on Campus

Richardson Ballroom – DiGiorgio Campus Center

The presence of emotional support animals (ESA) has dramatically increased on college campuses. Despite the increased prevalence, there are misconceptions, controversies, and concerns regarding the value and rights of ESA, even among psychologists and university counselors. Thus, we examined college students’ perceptions of service animals (SA) and ESA. We hypothesized that acceptance would be higher for SA than for ESA, and that personal experience with pets and mental health issues would predict increased acceptance of ESA. Participants were 101 young adults (74% women; 54% Caucasian) with a mean age of 21.0 (SD = 4.25). Participants randomly encountered one of two scenarios describing a classroom situation where either a service dog or an emotional support dog was present and were asked to evaluate the appropriateness of the situation. Participants then completed a knowledge quiz related to ESA, SA, and the ADA. Next, participants responded to questions to assess their personal attitudes toward assistance animals, the GAD-7 to assess recent anxiety symptoms, and questions about their experience with mental health issues and pets. In support of our first hypothesis, we found that people were less supportive of ESA owners than SA owners. Participants were generally supportive of SA. In contrast, ESA acceptance was predicted by increased knowledge, experience with ESAs, and mental health issues. In addition, mere exposure to a scenario about an ESA in a college classroom resulted in more openness to ESA in college classrooms. In contrast to our hypothesis, pet ownership was not a useful predictor.