Belief in Animal Mind: Does Familiarity with Animals Influence Beliefs about Animal Emotions?

In: Society & Animals
Paul Morris

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Sarah Knight
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Sarah Lesley University of Portsmouth

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Belief in the mental lives of nonhuman animals can have an impact on how we view and treat them, yet little is known about how and why laypeople attribute emotions to other species. The current study investigated how familiarity with animals (in terms of ownership) relates to beliefs regarding different emotions within and across species. An opportunity sample of 200 participants completed a questionnaire that measured familiarity with animals and beliefs about the capacity of a variety of species to experience a range of 16 different emotions. Participants reported varied levels of experience with animals and it was found that, regardless of familiarity, participants reported a wide variety of emotions in all the species they were asked to consider. However, participants who had never lived with an animal reported far fewer emotions than those who had, regardless of species. Keeping more than one animal did not increase the number of emotions reported. Keepers of a particular species always reported more emotions for that species than nonkeepers of that species. We conclude that familiarity with animals is an important determinant of belief about emotions in animals and animal mind in general.

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