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Humane education: the effects of animals in the classroom on children's empathy in Japanese elementary schools

By Mika Maruyama, Dalton Miller-Jones (adviser)

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Although humane education, promoting children's kindness toward animals, has been evaluated as a factor influencing children's kindness toward humans later in their life, the effect of a classroom pet hasn't been well studied. The current study investigated the influence of intensified daily interactions with living animals in the classroom on the development of empathy among Japanese children. Specifically, the study examined (a) the effect of introducing animals into the classroom on children's empathic behaviors and attitudes, and (b) the generalization of this animal-directed empathy to humans. Eight hundred fifty three students (in grades two through five) from ten elementary schools in Japan either engaged in intensive, guided interactions with two to three guinea pigs per class (the experimental group, E group) or did not interact with guinea pigs or otherwise receive special curricula (the control group, C group). Students were further divided into two groups by grade: younger students (second and third graders) and older students (fourth and fifth graders). Student in the E group cared for the guinea pigs throughout the academic year.

Students' self-reported empathy toward animals significantly correlated with reported empathy towards people for all ages tested. In addition, within-participant comparisons ofE versus C group posttest scores between younger and older students suggest that introducing a pet into the classroom may be more effective in supporting empathic development for older students than with younger students. The daily experiences of non-verbal communication with animals may help children become more likely to consider the feelings of "others" and to take into account another person's point of view .


Katie Osborn

Date 2005
Pages 134
Publisher Portland State University
Location of Publication Portland, Oregon
Department Psychology
Degree Master of Science
DOI 10.15760/etd.5444
Language English
  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Empathy
  3. Human-animal relationships
  4. Humane education
  5. Japan
  6. Schools