Beliefs about animal mind: influence on positive and negative child-animal interactions

Roxanne Hawkins, Joanne Williams

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


Children and animals can have a great impact on each other’s lives yet little is known about the underpinnings of these relationships. One particular aspect that may have a great influence on these relationships, is the belief in animal mind, that animals are sentient beings that experience thoughts and feelings including happiness, pain and distress. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between children’s beliefs about animal mind and factors relating to positive and negative interactions with animals. Using a questionnaire-based survey of over 1000 6 to 13 year olds in the UK, the results show that children’s beliefs about animal mind was positively related to attachment to pets, compassion toward animals, reported humane behaviour, caring behaviour and emotional attachment to animals as well as positive attitudes towards animals. Children were less accepting of intentional, unintentional and neglectful animal cruelty if they believed that animals are sentient. Pet ownership, including number of pets and whether children had a pet of their own, as well as age, influenced children’s beliefs about animal mind. This study enhances our understanding of the psychological underpinnings of child-animal relationships and highlights the implications for animal welfare education and for preventing childhood animal cruelty.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event14th Triennial IAHAIO International Conference: Unveiling a New Paradigm: HAI in the Mainstream - Paris, France
Duration: 11 Jul 201613 Jul 2016 (Conference website.)


Conference14th Triennial IAHAIO International Conference
Internet address


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