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Dogs, Cats and Horses: Their Different Representations in the Minds of Typical and Clinical Populations of Children

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Programs using dogs, cats, and horses as adjuncts in educational or therapeutic activities for children are well documented, even if little is known about the distinction made by children with regard to specific animals. This study explores children's thoughts about these three different animals. Three populations of children (84 typical children with no disabilities, 92 children with cognitive impairment, and 22 children with autism) were shown twelve pictures of animals and humans. The three groups of children were matched on mental age. Each child was asked to choose a picture in order to answer nine questions selected from existing tests and previous findings in the literature. This procedure allowed us to investigate what each animal represented to these three populations of children. The influence of morphological similarity, which can explain human preference for mammals, was also studied in a separate experiment. We found that the three mammals (dogs, cats, and horses) were perceived positively by both typical children and children with cognitive impairment (Principal component analysis Factor 1 "Positive Attributes"). Children with autism gave heterogeneous answers; therefore, it was more complicated to identify clearly what these animals meant to them. Pictures of humans were specifically associated with Factor 3 "Language-Based Relationship" of the principal component analysis. The possibility to touch the animal was an important factor of influence in the children's choices. The morphological similarity between animals and humans could partly explain the results obtained for dogs, cats, and horses. Identifying what specific animals represent to individual children could improve the therapeutic process and allow a more appropriate choice of animal for each child.
... supra). des facteurs structurants (ou variables qualitatives), au sens de l'analyse des données (Le roux & rouanet, 2004), tels qu'ils sont décrits dans les études méthodologiques ergonomiques (wolff, 2003 ;wolff, Burkhardt & de La Garza, 2005 ;Couture et al., 2010) ou psychologiques (Maurer, delfour, wolff & Adrien, 2010) ont complété les colonnes de ce tableau de données. Il s'agit des facteurs sujet (repère des réponses de chacun des quatre sujets), phase (repère de chaque phase concernée) et stratégie utilisée par le sujet ( combinaison des observations et des verbalisations). ...
... L'objectif d'une acp, appelée analyse des corrélations ou encore analyse géométrique des données, est de rechercher à partir de données multidimensionnelles des proximités et des différences entre groupements d'individus afin d'en faire ressortir des profils de comportements. Le principe de l'acp est de représenter les données sous forme de nuages de points dans des espaces géométriques et de fonder l'interprétation sur les proximités et les oppositions entre les points à partir d'axes factoriels (appelés également variables factorielles) qui résument ces informations (pour un exposé théorique, voir Le roux & rouanet, 2004Le roux & rouanet, et pour des exemples d'application : wolff, 2003wolff et al., 2005 ;Maurer et al., 2010). ...
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... The media, too, are championing the idea of AAI, referring to one dog as a "furry therapist" (Geary, 2015). These programmes, however, each have their own goals and outcomes and use different methods (Maurer, Delfour, Wolff, & Adrien, 2010). As such, it is important to understand the evidence supporting them in order to advise on their use. ...
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... People with autism have been shown to be less sensitive to human voices [73] or faces [74] than to other environmental stimuli. To our knowledge, little is known about how they perceive animals' characteristics, but they are quite able to classify their animal preferences based on pictures [75]. Using a task based on sorting by preference, Celani [76] showed that children withFigure 1. Item scores of ''offering to share'' at t 0 (4-to-5-years old; in grey) and t 1 (current period; mean age: 129.9655.8 ...
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