Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 1498–1509 | Cite as

Stated and revealed preferences in companion animal choice

  • Samantha E. CohenEmail author
  • Peter M. Todd


Humans often say they prefer certain attributes and trait levels and yet choose options inconsistent with those preferences, a phenomenon known as the stated–revealed preference gap. In this article, we compare preferences and choices in the decision to adopt a dog, a social-choice problem that is largely one-sided. We used existing and newly gathered field data about the dog adoption process to study how people make their choices of companion animals and how those choices can be improved. We found that in the real-world choice of dogs within an animal shelter, individuals generally showed a large amount of overlap between their stated preferences and their ratings of the traits of their chosen dog. However, there was little relationship between an adopter’s perceptions of their chosen dog’s behavioral traits and third-party in-shelter behavior evaluations of the same dogs, suggesting that it is difficult to predict which dogs will satisfy an adopter’s preferences. We also tested which commonly collected factors impact how quickly dogs are adopted from animal shelters. Overall, this work provides insight into the process of combining experimentally collected data and big data to elucidate choice behavior.


Animal shelters Decision making Social preferences Dogs Human–animal interaction 


Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 302 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cognitive Science Program and Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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