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Approval versus disapproval of dogfighting and cockfighting among college students.

We explored both the extent of approval/disapproval of cockfighting and dogfighting and the personality and animal attitude correlates of such approval versus disapproval. Cockfighting was selected because it is one of the most common sports in the world, especially in Latin America and Asia. Dogfighting was selected because, even though it is illegal, it frequently occurs in the United States.

Atyeo (1979) reviewed the history of dogfighting in the United States from its roots in England, where the Staffordshire bull terrier was bred for aggressiveness. English breeders first introduced Staffordshire terriers to the United States in the 1860s. The American bull terrier was bred to be larger and stronger than its English counterpart.

Evans, Gauthier, and Forsyth (1998) interviewed 31 American dogmen for between two and four hours at dogfights, at prefight meetings, and at the homes of the dogmen. Evans et al. found that as dog fighters tended to be men, Southern, and working class, pit bull fighting was essentially a poor man's sport. They maintained that dogfighting is a symbolic expression and validation of masculinity.

Lee, Gibbons, and Short (2010) showed college students a dogfight film involving a bait dog and administered a 6-item scale they devised and called Sympathy for the Bait Dog. Women were associated with greater sympathy and empathic concern (i.e., general trait sympathy), and scored higher on the Trait Sympathy for Animal Suffering 6-item Scale. Bonas, McNicholas, and Collis (2000) found in their study of pets in the network of family relationships that scores for companionship, nurturance, and reliable alliance were higher for human-dog relationships than for human-human relationships. In addition, support from human-dog relationships was higher than support from human-cat relationships.

McCaghy and Neal (1974) observed that few sports have the wide geographical distribution of cockfighting, which is found throughout the western hemisphere, for example, in Hawaii, and in the Philippines, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, India, and central China. In the United States, cockfighting is a sport said to be especially common among Puerto Ricans, Cajuns, Delta Blacks, Mexican-Americans, and rural Whites, and is most popular in the southern and western states (Forsyth, 1996). Cockfighting is now illegal in every state of the USA and a felony in 35 states and the District of Columbia (ASPCA, 2012).

In this study, we examined the extent of approval/disapproval of both cockfighting and dogfighting among a group of American college students and their correlates by assessing masculinity, empathy toward humans, and attitudes toward animals. Gender was included as a factor because it has been found in previous studies that dogfighting and cockfighting are primarily male activities.



The 206 volunteer participants comprising 141 women (68%) and 65 men (32%) were recruited in American undergraduate courses. The age of participants ranged from 18 to 53 years, with a mean of 24.38 and a standard deviation of 7.64. In terms of ethnic origin, 36% defined themselves as White/ Euro-American, 33% Hispanic American, 10% Asian Pacific Islander, 6% Other, 4% African American, 3% Middle Eastern, 3% Native American, 3% Southeast Asian, and 2% East Indian.


In addition to using four psychometric instruments, we used the scale shown in Table 1 to assess participant approval/disapproval of dogfighting and cockfighting.

Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Davis (1980) developed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) to measure human-directed empathy. The IRI is a 28-item Likert-type instrument that has four 7-item subscales with internal consistencies ranging from .71 to .72. We employed total score for this study. Preylo and Arikawa (2008) found that vegetarian status correlated .39 with the empathic concern subscale, .36 with the fantasy subscale, .37 with the perspective-taking subscale, and .25 with the personal-distress subscale of the IRI. The present authors reasoned that empathy toward humans could be related to a general empathy propensity.

Pet Attitude Scale. The Pet Attitude Scale (PAS) developed by Templer, Salter, Dickey, Baldwin, and Veleber (1981) is an 18-item Likert-type instrument that assesses general attitudes toward companion animals. It has a Cronbach's alpha of .93, test-retest reliability of .92, and meaningful factors. Templer et-al. (1981) found that kennel workers had significantly higher PAS scores than social work students. There were meaningful correlations with the Mini-Mult, an abbreviated form of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Kincannon, 1968), the Study of Values Manual (Allport, Vernon, & Lindzey, 1960), the Eysenck Personality Inventory (Eysenck, 1958), and the Personality Research Form (Jackson, 1967). In the above-cited Preylo and Arikawa (2008) study, vegetarian status correlated .37 with the Pet Attitude Scale.

Animal-Human Continuity Scale. The 12-item Animal-Human Continuity Scale (Templer, Connelly, Bassman, & Hart, 2006) has a Likert-type 7-option format. It was constructed to measure the extent to which the respondent views humans and animals in a dichotomous fashion versus on a continuum. The scale contains such items as "Humans can think but animals cannot" and "People have a spiritual nature but animals do not." A Cronbach's alpha of .69 and meaningful factors were obtained in their study. As expected, they found a significant difference between participants from a Unitarian Universalist church (in the continuous direction) and those from a conservative rural Methodist church (dichotomous direction).

Personality Attributes Questionnaire. Bem (1974) constructed the Personality Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ) in the context of her concept of androgyny. The validity of the PAQ was established by correlations with other scales of masculinity and femininity. The 10-item Masculinity scale only was used in this study. Bem reported that the Masculinity scale has a Cronbach's alpha of .85.


We obtained approval from the Institutional Review Board at Fresno City College before the data collection. Students who agreed to participate were given a research packet containing a participation consent form, a demographic information form and the five research instruments. Participants were instructed to read and sign the consent form and then to complete the demographic information form and the five research instruments.


On a scale of 1 = greatest disapproval to 6 = greatest approval, it is apparent from Table 2 that 97.1% of the participants disapproved of dogfighting and 93.8% disapproved of cockfighting. The product-moment correlation coefficient between the dogfighting approval/disapproval and cockfighting approval/ disapproval was .69, df = 204, (p < .001).

Table 3 contains the product-moment correlation coefficients of the five independent variables with dogfighting approval and with cockfighting approval. It is apparent that disapproval of dogfighting was associated with a favorable attitude toward pets, a perception of animals and humans in a continuous rather than a dichotomous fashion, and greater empathy toward other humans. Disapproval of cockfighting was associated with women. The means of cockfighting were extremely similar, 1.42 (SD = .81) for Whites and 1.45 (SD = 1.17) for Hispanics, t (df = 139) = .17, p = .86. The dog fighting means were also very similar, 1.22 (SD = .53) and 1.28 (SD = .93), t (df = 139) = .55,p = .60.


The finding of 97.1% disapproval of dogfighting and 93.8% disapproval of cockfighting is good news for animal rights advocates. On the other hand, the findings that 2.9% of the participants had at least some approval of dogfighting and 6.2% had at least some approval of cockfighting suggests that work in the realm of education and attitude change is needed to achieve our aim, which is zero dogfighting and cockfighting. We suggest that the correlation of .69 between approval of dogfighting and approval of cockfighting may be attributed to an individual's attitude toward animal fighting being related to a more general attitude toward the mistreatment of animals.

The significant correlations in Table 3 are congruent with both common sense and previously reported findings. In our view it is most understandable that disapproval of dogfighting is associated with a positive attitude toward pets. People who love their pets presumably do not want dogs to be hurt. We also find it understandable that those people who, compared with other groups of individuals, view animals as more like people and would not want dogs to be hurt. We also find it very relevant that, in the study by Bonas et al. (2000), human-dog relationships were rated higher in social support and lower in conflict than in both human-human and human-cat relationships. The findings with respect to the IRI show that those people who have more empathy than others for their fellow humans tend to be against dogfighting. Preylo and Arikawa (2008) found that college student participants who had greater empathy than others toward humans were more likely to be vegetarians. In this study, we found that women tended to disapprove of cockfighting more than did men. This finding is congruent with an abundance of research reviewed by Herzog (2007), in which the results showed that women had a more positive attitude toward animal rights and a more negative attitude toward harming animals than did men. It is recommended that educational and other programs to prevent animal fighting should be especially directed toward aggressive men with apparent antisocial propensities.



Allport, G. W., Vernon, P. E., & Lindzey, G. (1960). Study of Values: Manual. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (2012). ASPCA: Fight animal cruelty: Cockfighting. Retrieved from

Atyeo, D. (1979). Blood and guts: Violence in sports. New York: Paddington Press.

Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155-162.

Bonas, S., McNicholas, J. H., & Collis, G. M. (2000). Pets in the network of family relationships: An empirical study. In A. L. Podberscek, E. S. Paul, & J. A. Serpell (Eds.), Companion animals and us: Exploring the relationships between people and pets (pp. 209-236). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Davis, M. H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10, 1-19.

Evans, R., Gauthier, D. K., & Forsyth, C. J. (1998). Dogfighting: Symbolic expression and validation of masculinity. Sex Roles, 39 (11/12), 825-838.

Eysenck, H. J. (1958). A short questionnaire for the measurement of two dimensions of personality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 42, 14-17.

Forsyth, C. J. (1996). A pecking disorder: Cockfighting in Louisiana. International Review of Modern Sociology, 26, 15-25.

Herzog, H. A. (2007). Gender differences in human-animal interactions: A review. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People & Animals, 20, 7-21. dg84hn

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Lee, S. A., Gibbons, J. A., & Short, S. D. (2010). Sympathetic reactions to the bait dog in a film of dog fighting: The influence of personality and gender. Society and Animals, 18, 107-125. http://

McCaghy, C. H., & Neal, A. G. (1974). The fraternity of cockfighters: Ethical embellishment of an illegal sport. The Journal of Popular Culture, 8, 557-569.

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Alliant International University


Springfield, MO, USA


Alliant International University

Melody Molina, Alliant International University; Hiroko Arikawa, Springfield, MO; Donald I. Templer, Alliant International University. Donald I. Templer is now retired.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Donald I. Templer, 257 West Los Altos Avenue, Fresno, CA 93704, USA. Email:
Table 1. Dogfighting and Cockfighting Disapproval
/Approval Opinion Scale

Please give your opinion about dogfighting and cockfighting
Please circle +3, +2, +1, -1, -2, or -3

Dogfighting is a good sport.

 Strongly     Disagree    Slightly     Slightly    Agree    Strongly
 disagree                 disagree       agree               agree
    -3           -2           -1          +1         +2        +3
Cockfighting is a good sport.

 Strongly     Disagree     Slightly    Slightly    Agree    Strongly
  disagree                 disagree                          agree
    -3           -2           -1           +1        +2        +3

Table 2. Number and Percentage of Participants Who Endorsed Each
of the Six Approval/Disapproval Options for Dogfighting and

                       Dogfighting  Cockfighting

Option                  n      %       n       %

1. Strongly disagree   167    8.1%    147    71.4%
2. Disagree             28   13.6%     35    17.0%
3. Slightly disagree     5    2.4%     11     5.3%
4. Slightly agree        2    1.0%      5     2.4%
5. Agree                 0    0.0%      4     1.9%
6. Strongly agree        4    1.9%      4     1.9%

Table 3.
Correlations of Independent Variables With Dogfighting Approval
and Cockfighting Approval

Independent variable                Dogfighting   Cockfighting
                                     Approval       Approval
                                     (M =1.31,     (M = 1.52,
                                     SD = .84)     SD = 1.06)

Pet Attitude Scale                    -.21 **         -.09
(M = 93.71, SD = 19.51)
Animal-Human Continuity Scale         -.14 *          -.11
(M = 54.53, SD = 11.84)
Personal Attributes Questionnaire       .05           .06
  --Masculinity Scale
(M = 70.93, SD = 12.66)
Interpersonal Reactivity Index        -.13 *          -.06
(M = 67.10, SD = 13.37)
Sex (male = 1, female = 2)             -.04         -.21 **

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .002.
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Author:Molina, Melody; Arikawa, Hiroko; Templer, Donald I.
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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