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Belief in Animal Mind among Spanish Primary School Children

By David José Menor-Campos, Roxanne Hawkins, Joanne Williams

Category Journal Articles

Beliefs concerning the mental experiences of nonhuman animals have been related to how people treat, see, and take care of nonhuman animals. Whereas this issue has been the subject of several studies on adults, few have been conducted with children. Taking advantage of a recently published scale, the Child-BAM questionnaire, we aimed to explore the beliefs in animal minds of Spanish primary school children. The study also considered the effects of a child's age, school year group, gender, and pet ownership on their beliefs in animal mind. The Child-BAM questionnaire, concerning the mental capabilities of eight different species (human, chimpanzee, dog, cow, otter, sparrow, frog, and fish), was distributed at a primary school sited in Cordoba, Spain. A total of 416 participants were included aged between 6 and 13 years. Each child provided scores for animals’ ability to have intelligence, experience pain, fear, happiness, and sadness, and total scores for the eight species were calculated. The results showed that children's beliefs about animal minds differed depending on the type of animal, and that children were more likely to believe in the emotional capacities of animals rather than their cognitive capabilities. Dogs achieved similar scores to humans regarding all capabilities, and higher than any other species, while the cow, fish, and frog generally scored the lowest. Age, school year group, and having a companion animal at home affected beliefs in animal minds, whereas gender had no effect. This study highlights cultural similarities in children's beliefs about animal minds and the potential importance of this variable for future research in child–animal interactions.

Publication Title Anthrozoös
Volume 31
Issue 5
Pages 599-614
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2018.1505340
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Belief
  3. Children
  4. Human-animal interactions
  5. sentience