You are here: Home / Journal Articles / Wild minds: what people think about animal thinking / About

Wild minds: what people think about animal thinking

By M. Maust-Mohl, J. Fraser, R. Morrison

View Resource (HTM)

Licensed under

Category Journal Articles

The question of how nonhuman animals think is pervasive in the scientific and popular media, yet there is an apparent lack of concordance between findings from research in animal cognition and how this information emerges in popular discourse. The present study investigated the way people conceive of animal thinking, in order to inform the development of an exhibit on animal minds that will address this issue and foster a deeper connection between people and animals. This two-part, sequential study of perceptions of animal thinking used qualitative interviews of visitors to the New York Hall of Science and Staten Island Zoo to develop a quantitative, online consumer survey of American museum visitors. The results show that American museum visitors vary in their perceptions of animal thinking, but appear to be open to new ideas about how animals might think. Participants' responses to the interviews revealed they could easily recognize survival strategies in wild animals, but had reservations about discussions of empathy, deception, and awareness. In addition, animals kept as pets or companion animals in Western culture were commonly perceived to have higher cognitive capacities for thinking than food or other domestic animals. Participants' responses to the online consumer survey appeared to focus on an overall concept of animal thinking, rather than different cognitive dimensions. Although participants were generally neutral in their responses, demographic analysis revealed participants who had dogs and/or cats, a college education, or watched nature shows were more likely to support the belief that animals can think. Participants who had children at home were less likely to support this belief. Further research is needed to determine how different kinds of thought processes are understood by general audiences and how demographic factors might influence perceptions of animal thinking.

Date 2012
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 133-147
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.2752/175303712X13316289505224
Language English
Author Address Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience, The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Anthrozoology
  3. APEC countries
  4. Attitudes
  5. Audiences
  6. Canidae
  7. Canine
  8. Carnivores
  9. Cats
  10. Children
  11. Consumers
  12. Demography
  13. Developed countries
  14. Dogs
  15. Domestic animals
  16. Education
  17. Humans
  18. interviews
  19. Mammals
  20. Men
  21. New York
  22. North America
  23. OECD countries
  24. peer-reviewed
  25. perceptions
  26. Pets and companion animals
  27. Primates
  28. Social psychology and social anthropology
  29. spectators
  30. surveys
  31. survival
  32. United States of America
  33. Wild animals
  34. Zoo and captive wild animals
  35. Zoology
  1. peer-reviewed