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Public Perceptions of Mental Capacities of Nonhuman Animals: Finnish Population Survey

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Mental capacities are an essential basis on which people give moral concern to nonhuman animals. Hence, it is important to investigate public perceptions of animal mind and the factors underlying these perceptions. Although research into citizen beliefs in animal mind has been increasing, population-based studies utilizing multivariate methods have been scarce. In this article, public perceptions of animal mind are investigated with a nationwide survey in Finland (n = 1,824). Eight animal species positioned differently in cultural categorizations are included in the analysis. Dogs were ascribed the most capacities, followed by cows, pigs, wolves, and elk. Citizens expressed a low belief in the mental capacities of chicken, salmon, and shrimp. Classifying animals as companions, food, and threat influences the perceptions of animal mind. Young age, having a companion animal, valuing societal equality, and concern for animal welfare and for animal utilization are connected to a greater belief in animal mind.
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Public Perceptions of the Mental Capacities of Nonhuman Animals: Finnish Population
Survey
Saara Kupsala, Markus Vinnari, Pekka Jokinen, and Pekka Räsänen
Accepted peer-reviewed version of the article Kupsala, S., Vinnari, M., Jokinen, P. and
Räsänen, P. (2016) Public Perceptions of Mental Capacities of Nonhuman Animals: Finnish
Population Survey. Society & Animals, 24 (5):445466. doi: 10.1163/15685306-12341423.
Saara Kupsala
University of Eastern Finland, Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies, Department
of Geographical and Historical Studies, P. O. Box 111, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Environmental Policy Centre, P.O. Box 140, 00251
Helsinki, Finland
E-mail: kupsala@uef.fi
Markus Vinnari
University of Tampere, School of Management, 33014 Tampere, Finland
markus.vinnari@uta.fi
Pekka Jokinen
University of Tampere, School of Management, 33014 Tampere, Finland
Pekka.T.Jokinen@uta.fi
Pekka Räsänen
University of Turku, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research, 20014
Turku, Finland
pekras@utu.fi
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Abstract
Mental capacities are an essential basis on which people give moral concern to nonhuman
animals. Hence, it is important to investigate public perceptions of animal mind and the
factors underlying these perceptions. Although research into citizen beliefs in animal mind
has been increasing, population-based studies utilizing multivariate methods have been
scarce. In this article, public perceptions of animal mind are investigated with a nationwide
survey in Finland (n = 1,824). Eight animal species positioned differently in cultural
categorizations are included in the analysis. Dogs are ascribed the most capacities, followed
by cows, pigs, wolves, and elk. Citizens express a low belief in the mental capacities of
chicken, salmon, and shrimp. Classifying animals as companions, food and threat influences
the perceptions of animal mind. Young age, having a companion animal, valuing societal
equality, and concern for animal welfare and for animal utilization are connected to a greater
belief in animal mind.
Key words: animal mind; beliefs; mental capacities; perceptions; public; survey.
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Introduction
Regarding nonhuman animals as mindless automata has helped to place them outside the
realm of moral consideration (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). Moreover, when an animal’s
similarity to humans is used as a yardstick against which to measure her or his moral worth, a
moral hierarchy between nonhuman animals is created: Those animals that are considered
more human-like in terms of mental capacities are given a higher moral standing than those
animals that less resemble humans (Francione, 2008). Because mind attribution is central for
moral consideration of other beings (Bastian, Loughnan, Haslam, & Radke, 2011), it is
important to investigate how the general public perceives the mental capacities of animals
and which factors shape these perceptions.
Major shifts in the science of animal mind have significantly changed human knowledge
about the mental capacities of nonhuman animals (Griffin & Speck, 2004; Panksepp, 2011).
There has been a considerable inertia in science in considering the mental experiences of
animals as a serious subject of empirical research, because mental events are not directly
observable, measurable and verifiable (Rollin, 2000). However, significant advances in
cognition research, neurosciences and animal behavior sciences have generated new scientific
methods to investigate the mental capacities of animals (Boissy et al., 2007; Duncan, 2006;
Panksepp, 2011). Evidence on animal consciousness has converged rapidly, and recently a
prominent group of neuroscientists made a declaration on animal consciousness, proclaiming
that nonhuman animals possess neurological substrates of conscious states (Low et al., 2012).
The accumulation of scientific knowledge of animal mind necessitates updating the image of
animals in social sciences, as social sciences have continued portraying animals as de-minded
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objects and have been reluctant to include animals as minded actors in their research agendas
(Irvine, 2007; Noske, 1993; Young & Thompson, 2013). By applying their specific
perspectives and research methods, social sciences can make a distinct contribution to
interdisciplinary discussion on animal mind (Irvine, 2007; Noske, 1993; Young & Thompson,
2013). Alongside investigating how animal mind emerges in humananimal interaction
(Irvine, 2007; Irvine, 2008), social sciences can explore how understandings of the mental
capacities of animals are constructed in society and what implications these constructions
have for the moral treatment of animals.
In recent years, survey research into laypeople’s perceptions of animal mind has increased
(e.g., Knight, Vrij, Cherryman, & Nunkoosing, 2004; McGrath, Walker, Nilsson, & Phillips,
2013; Morris, Knight, & Lesley, 2012). However, population-based studies have been rare in
the research field, and studies have tended to investigate only a limited number of factors that
are possibly associated with the perceptions of animal mind. Consequently, our current
knowledge of the public perceptions of animal mind and of the factors underlying these
perceptions is still limited.
It is common to consider whether lay perceptions of animal mind represent an accurate
understanding of the true psychological reality of animals whether these perceptions are
mere misguided folk beliefs or whether they are plausible interpretations of the subjective
experiences of other animals (Horowitz, 2007; Morris, Doe, & Godsell, 2008). Because of
scientific advancements, a growing amount of research knowledge is available for evaluating
whether lay beliefs in animal mind can be supported by scientific findings (McGrath et al.,
2013). However, in this study we will not systematically examine the compatibility between
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lay understandings and scientific knowledge, as our main focus is on investigating general
social regularities in laypeople’s perceptions of animal mind.
Social Formation of Beliefs Regarding the Nonhuman Animal Mind
People’s perceptions of animal psychology can result from a number of factors, including the
phylogenetic categorization, familiarity and cultural stereotype of the animal, and the
animal’s behavior in context (Mitchell & Hamm, 1997). Regarding phylogenetic
categorization, animals who are evolutionarily close to humans are assigned more mental
capacities than animals who are biologically less related to humans (Herzog & Galvin, 1997).
Mammals are typically ascribed the highest mental capacities, followed by birds, reptiles or
amphibians, fish and then a range of invertebrates (Eddy, Gallup, & Povinelli, 1993; Herzog
& Galvin, 1997; Knight, Vrij, Bard, & Brandon, 2009; McGrath et al., 2013; Phillips et al.,
2010; Phillips & McCulloch, 2005). This hierarchical “scale of nature” schema, according to
which the human is at the peak of mental development, followed by the animals most similar
to humans, has a strong hold in the collective imagination, despite the complexity of the
evolution of mind in different phylogenetic groups (Brown, 2015; Morris et al., 2012).
Alongside phylogenetic categorization, also the cultural categorization of animals influences
people’s perceptions of animal mind (Herzog & Galvin, 1997). In this article, we evaluate
how classifying animals according to the sociozoological scale is connected to perceptions of
the mental capacities of animals. The sociozoological scale refers to the ranking of animals
on a ladder of moral worth according to how well animals are considered as fitting into the
social order (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). Animals who have a valued place in society and who
comply with their subordinate status are classified as good animals (pets and tools),
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while animals who are considered harmful to humans and resist their subordinate status are
classified as bad animals (vermin and demons) (Arluke & Sanders, 1996).
Companion animals are at the top of the sociozoological scale as they are valued for their
affective importance (Arluke & Sanders, 1996; Sandøe & Christiansen, 2009). Concurrently,
companion animals are ranked high in terms of mental capacities (Eddy et al., 1993; Herzog
& Galvin, 1997; Knight et al., 2009; McGrath et al., 2013; Phillips et al., 2010; Phillips &
McCulloch, 2005). Familiarity, close interaction and emotional affinity with companion
animals encourage perceiving them as minded actors (Eddy et al., 1993; Morris et al., 2012).
Moreover, animals’ behavior in particular contexts is an important determinant for people’s
perception of their psychology (Mitchell & Hamm, 1997). Due to regular contact with
companion animals, people tend to gain plenty of behavioral evidence of their abilities in
their everyday lives (cf. Mitchell & Hamm, 1997).
Animals on the farm are categorized as tools on the sociozoological scale and their status is
lower than that of companion animals (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). To become tools, farm
animals must be transformed into objects that are assigned diminished mental capacities
(Arluke & Sanders, 1996). Indeed, psychological studies indicate that people tend to de-
mentalize farm animals in order to diminish moral disquiet involved in meat eating (Bastian
et al., 2011). People express disgust at the thought of eating animals regarded as intelligent
(Ruby & Heine, 2012) and they regard as morally wrong and unpleasant to eat animals who
are ascribed with high mental capacities (Bastian et al., 2011).
Although research has analyzed in detail the attribution of mental abilities to animals
categorized as pets and tools, less attention has been given to animals classified as vermin
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and demons on the sociozoological scale. Vermin and demons are perceived as threats to the
social order because they cross human-drawn boundaries and stray from or reject the place
assigned to them (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). These animals are ranked on the bottom-rung of
the moral hierarchy established by the sociozoological scale, and their low moral status is
reflected in their poor protection (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). It may be the case that people
assign lesser minds to animals classified as vermin and demons due to their low moral status,
but this question would need further empirical investigation.
Alongside animal categorization, belief in animal mind also varies according to socio-
demographic background. As regards gender differences in human perceptions of animal
mind, studies suggest that women are more willing to ascribe mental capacities to animals
than men (Herzog & Galvin, 1997; McGrath et al., 2013; Walker, McGrath, Nilsson, Waran,
& Phillips, 2014). Regarding age, some studies suggest that older people ascribe fewer
mental capacities to animals (McGrath et al., 2013), while other studies suggest the reverse
(Knight et al., 2004; Walker, McGrath, Handel, Waran, & Phillips, 2014). Younger people
tend to be more concerned about animal welfare than older people (Deemer & Lobao, 2011;
Kendall, Lobao, & Sharp, 2006), but as regards animal mind, the research findings are less
consistent.
People who live in urbanized areas are more concerned about animal welfare than people
who live in rural areas (Deemer & Lobao, 2011; Kendall et al., 2006). However, to our
knowledge, the link between place of residency and perceptions of animal mind has not been
studied empirically. Education can influence the ways in which scientific findings on animal
mind reach the wider public. Yet, to our knowledge, empirical research on the link between
education and belief in animal mind is lacking. Previous research suggests that keeping a
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companion animal has an important impact on attitudes to animals (Kendall et al., 2006).
Keepers of companion animals tend to attribute more mental capacities to animals than non-
keepers (Maust-Mohl, Fraser, & Morrison, 2012; Walker, McGrath, Handel, et al., 2014).
Research suggests that animal welfare concerns are linked to human welfare concerns
(Deemer & Lobao, 2011; Paul, 2000). Similarly, psychological studies indicate that biases
toward human out-groups are related to biases toward animals (Dhont, Hodson, Costello, &
MacInnis, 2014). De-mentalization plays an important role in both human-related and
animal-related prejudices: when lesser minds are attributed to human out-groups and
nonhuman animals, they are ascribed with diminished moral worth (Bastian, Costello,
Loughnan, & Hodson, 2012; Costello & Hodson, 2010). However, the connection between
belief in animal mind and human-egalitarian attitudes has not been investigated empirically
with population-based studies.
Greater belief in animal mind is connected to favorable attitudes toward animal welfare and
less support of animal use (Herzog & Galvin, 1997; Knight et al., 2004). When animals are
perceived as capable of a range of inner experiences, it appears less acceptable to cause them
suffering and to prevent them from using their capacities in captivity (see Knight et al.,
2004). Yet, again, the link between belief in animal mind and animal welfare or animal use
attitudes has not been investigated with large data samples.
Although important findings have been made about people’s perceptions of animal mind,
studies have tended to suffer from limited generalizability. In fact, we have not identified any
study on perceptions of animal mind that utilizes a nationwide and representative data
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sample1. Similarly, multivariate analyses investigating a range of competing determinants
have been rare.
Objectives
This study investigates public perceptions of the mental capacities of animals in Finland. By
utilizing a representative nationwide data sample, we aim to produce robust knowledge of
factors underlying citizen perceptions of animal mind. More specifically, the research
questions are as follows:
I. To what extent do people attribute mental capacities to animals positioned differently
in phylogenetic categories and on the sociozoological scale?
II. How do perceptions of animal mind associate with socio-demographic background
variables, human-equality attitudes, as well as animal welfare and animal use
attitudes?
Data and Methods
Survey Data Collection and Questionnaire Design
Finns’ perceptions of the mental capacities of animals were surveyed as a part of a wider
survey on citizen attitudes to farm animals carried out in 2010. The address data (n = 4,000)
was obtained as a random sample from a national population register maintained by the
Population Register Centre of Finland. The sampling frame was Finns aged 1875. We
received 1,890 adequately completed forms, but excluded 66 forms from further analysis
because they included no responses to the question on animal mind. The remaining amount of
respondents was 1,824, and the final response rate was 45.8 percent2.
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Only a limited range of animal species and mental capacities could be included in the
questionnaire due to the wider purpose of the survey. The question concerning the mental
capacities of animals included eight animal species (elk, chicken, shrimp, dog, cow, salmon,
pig, and wolf)3. These animal species covered four broad phylogenetic categories (mammals,
birds, fish and invertebrates). They also covered the categories of pets (dog), tools (animals
utilized for food cow, pig, chicken and elk) and vermin or demons (wolf) on the
sociozoological scale.
The questionnaire included five emotions and three cognitive capacities. The question read
as, To which of the following animals do the statements below apply?” The statements were
as following: the animal feels pain/pleasure/sadness/affection/anger, the animal remembers
its conspecific, the animal has a capacity to think, and the animal can understand its own
death and the death of its conspecific. Respondents were instructed to circle either yes or
no, or to leave the place blank if they felt they did not know the answer. Blank responses
are coded as “no answer” in the analysis.
Previous studies on beliefs regarding animal mind have included a variety of emotions,
ranging from basic (e.g., pain, pleasure and fear) to more complex emotions (e.g., love,
jealousy and guilt) (e.g., Herzog & Galvin, 1997; Morris et al., 2012; Morris et al., 2008;
Walker, McGrath, Handel, et al., 2014). We included pain and pleasure in this study because
these emotions define whether the animal is regarded as sentient and whether he/she has a
moral standing based on his/her sentience (Francione, 2008; Singer, 1975). We also included
more complex emotions (sadness, affection and anger) in order to examine to what extent
people ascribe a richer inner world to animals, in addition to basic sentience.
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Previous studies have also included a wide variety of cognitive capacities, such as capacity to
reason, self-awareness, learning, memory, problem solving and numerosity (Eddy et al.,
1993; Herzog & Galvin, 1997; Hills, 1995; Knight et al., 2009; Maust-Mohl et al., 2012). In
this study we included the capacity to think as a general indicator of the ability of animals to
form any mental representations or ideas. Remembering conspecifics refers to a more specific
cognitive ability related to social recognition and social memory (e.g., Gieling, Nordquist, &
Staay, 2011). Finally, comprehending death refers to a complex cognitive capacity, related to
an ability to conceive finitude and loss (Kaldewaij, 2008). Understanding death is an
important theme in the ethical discussion about the harm of death to animals (Kaldewaij,
2008).
Belief in Animal Mind Scales
We formed belief in animal mind scales for each animal species. In these scales, yes
answers in the eight mental capacities of each species are summated (yes = 1, no or no
answer = 0). The maximum score is eight, indicating that all mental capacities are attributed
to the animal, and the minimum score is zero, indicating that none of the mental capacities
are assigned to the animal. The belief in animal mind scales measure how many mental
capacities people confidently attribute to each animal species. However, they do not
distinguish between “no” and no answer responses. An inter-item reliability test for these
measures yields Cronbach’s alpha coefficients as follows: elk .823, chicken .820, shrimp
.864, dog .764, cow .801, salmon .837, pig .826, and wolf .859.
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Independent Variables
Socio-demographic variables include gender, age, place of residence and education. Apart
from age, all the socio-demographic variables are categorical and included in the analysis as
dummy variables, coded 1/0. Gender was coded 0 = male (a reference group) or 1 = female.
Age was measured in years. The place of residence includes three categories: countryside (a
reference group), a small town or a densely populated area (with 50,000 inhabitants or less),
and a big town or a city (with over 50,000 inhabitants). Education is divided into three
categories: basic education (compulsory basic education, such as comprehensive school or
below), intermediate education (vocational school or upper secondary school), and tertiary
education (including college, polytechnic, university and doctorate education). Having a
companion animal is coded 1 for respondents who currently have a companion animal in the
household; all others are coded 0.
The social equality scale is based on three items. Respondents were asked how much they
value gender equality, social justice and the rights of sexual minorities. Possible scores for
these items range from 1 (values them very much) to 5 (does not value them at all). The
Cronbach’s alpha of these items is .645. The variable was reversed for the analysis, so that
higher scores in the scale indicate a higher valuation of social equality.
Attitudes toward animal welfare and animal use were measured with two variables: Firstly,
farm animal welfare evaluation is a scaled variable created from eight items. Respondents
were asked to evaluate the current state of animal welfare at eight animal production lines in
Finland (including laying hens, broilers, turkeys, pigs, farmed fish, beef cattle, dairy cows,
and sheep). Possible scores ranged from 1 (very good) to 5 (very poor). The Cronbach’s
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alpha of these items is .922. Higher scores in the scale indicate a more negative evaluation of
the current state of farm animal welfare.
Secondly, the animal instrumentalization scale is based on a single-item statement measuring
an instrumental orientation toward animals. The statement reads as “An animal should be
seen primarily as a means of production”, and possible answers score between 1 (fully agree)
to 5 (fully disagree). The scale is reversed, so higher scores in the scale indicate a more
instrumental attitude toward animals.
Analysis Techniques
Our analytical techniques include descriptive statistics and linear regression models. Because
the independent variables did not correlate strongly with each other (in collinearity statistics,
tolerance levels were above 0.5 in all variables), multiple OLS regression was deemed an
appropriate technique in the predictive analysis. In the analysis, the connection between the
dependent and independent variables are tested by using F- and t-tests. We report regression
coefficients in both standardized (Beta) and non-standardized (β) forms. The belief in salmon
and shrimp mind scales are excluded from the regression analysis because they do not contain
a sufficient number of yesanswers to form viable dependent variables.
Sample Representativeness
Table 1 shows descriptive statistics for background variables. It also shows how the sample
compares with the population in terms of gender, age and education. Women comprise 56
percent of respondents, and they are over-represented by six percent in comparison to
population data. The mean age is 49.5, which is somewhat higher than the mean age of
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Finland’s adult population (46.1 in the age range of Finns aged 1875). Educational
distribution in the survey sample is fairly similar to that of the population.
------------------------
Table 1 about here
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Results
Descriptive Analysis
As Table 2 shows, most people believe that dogs possess all eight mental capacities. Over 79
percent believes that cows and pigs can feel pain, pleasure, and affection, and that they can
remember their conspecifics, and 5670 percent attribute to them all the rest of the mental
capacities. Further, over 77 percent believe that wolves and elk can feel pain and pleasure and
remember conspecifics, and 5768 percent think that they are capable of the remaining
mental capacities. More than 62 percent believe that chickens can feel the basic emotions of
pain and pleasure, and that they remember their conspecifics. Yet, only the minority
considers that chickens possess the remaining mental capacities. The majority believes that
salmon can feel pain, but otherwise the belief in the mental capacities of salmon is low (see a
more detailed discussion in Kupsala, Jokinen, & Vinnari, 2013). Less than 50 percent
believes that shrimp can feel pain, and only around 925 percent of the population believes
that shrimp are capable of the remaining mental capacities.
People are more uncertain to ascribe mental capacities to chickens, salmon and shrimp than
to mammals, as indicated by the share of no answer responses in Table 2. Regarding
denying the mental capacities, the share of no answers is 123 percent in the case of
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mammals, 1540 percent in the case of chickens, and 3457 percent in the case of salmon
and shrimp, excluding the capacity to feel pain.
------------------------
Table 2 about here
-----------------------
Table 3 presents the mean values of the belief in animal mind scales. The belief in dog mind
scale has the highest mean value, and people attribute to dogs on average seven capacities out
of the eight. Other mammals are given on average approximately six capacities out of the
eight. In this group of mammals, cows are ascribed the most capacities, followed by pigs or
wolves, and then elk. People ascribe to chickens on average only half of the capacities.
Salmon and shrimp are given on average only one or two capacities.
------------------------
Table 3 about here
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Predictive Analysis
Table 4 presents the OLS regression models for the belief in dog and cow mind scales, Table
5 for the belief in pig and wolf mind scales, and Table 6 for the belief in elk and chicken
mind scales. In terms of statistically significant findings, older people attribute fewer mental
capacities to dogs, pigs, wolves and elk than younger people. Women attribute fewer mental
capacities to wolves and elk than men. People with a tertiary education express greater belief
in the mental capacities of wolves than people with a basic education. The place of residence
is not associated with the belief in animal mind scales. Having a companion animal is
associated with a greater belief in the mental capacities of all animals. As regards attitudinal
variables, valuing social equality is connected to a greater belief in the mental capacities of
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all animals, apart from dogs. A negative evaluation of the farm animal welfare situation is
related to greater attribution of mental capacities to pigs, wolves, elk and chickens. Animal
instrumentalization is connected to reduced belief in the mental capacities of all animals.
------------------------------------
Tables 4, 5 and 6 about here
------------------------------------
Discussion
Belief in the Mental Capacities of Animals: The Effect of Cultural Constructs
This study demonstrates important differences in Finnish citizen perceptions of the mental
capacities of animals. As could be expected, people attribute more mental capacities to
mammals, which are evolutionarily closer to humans than other animals. Chickens are given
noticeably fewer mental capacities than mammals, followed by salmon (fish) and shrimp
(invertebrate).
Alongside biological relatedness to humans, the cultural construction of animals also
influences the perceptions of their mental capacities. In this research, citizens ranked dogs as
high in terms of mental capacities, confirming previous findings (e.g., Herzog & Galvin,
1997; Knight et al., 2009; McGrath et al., 2013). Dogs are at the top of the moral ladder of
the sociozoological scale and they have enjoyed a long-standing special status in human
communities (Arluke & Sanders, 1996; Sanders, 1999). Due to the close-knit social
interaction between humans and dogs, people gain plenty of behavioral evidence of their
abilities in their everyday lives (cf. Mitchell & Hamm, 1997).
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People attribute clearly fewer mental capacities to wolves than to dogs, despite the biological
relatedness of these species. For instance, while 97 percent of the populace believe that dogs
can feel affection and 80 percent believe that dogs can think, these figures are only 63 and 66
percent respectively in the case of wolves. The contrasting cultural construction of these
biological cousins on the sociozoological scale dogs as pets and wolves as vermin or
demons is evident in the differing perceptions of their mental capacities. Negative
stigmatization of wolves as a threat or pest has long-standing cultural roots in Finland (Bisi,
Liukkonen, Mykrä, Pohja-Mykrä, & Kurki, 2010). In cultural imagery wolves are often
demonized because they are regarded as dangerous animals, provoking collective feelings of
fear toward wolves (Borgström, 2012; Serpell, 1996). Moreover, wolves are also regarded as
vermin who threaten human livelihoods by killing domestic animals and game animals (Bisi
et al., 2010). As vermin or demons, wolves are on the bottom-rung of the moral ladder of the
sociozoological scale (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). De-mentalization of wolves can help to
place them outside the realm of moral consideration, supporting attitudes favoring their
eradication (Arluke & Sanders, 1996; Serpell, 1996).
According to our findings, belief in the mental capacities of farmed mammals is lower than
belief in the mental capacities of dogs. Because of familiarity and emotional bonding with
companion animals and having personal knowledge of their behavioral abilities, people tend
to attribute a rich inner world to companion animals, while farm animals are more distant and
anonymous to people (Mitchell & Hamm, 1997; Morris et al., 2012). Moreover, on the
sociozoological scale, farm animals are constructed as tools that are instrumentally utilized in
food production (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). Transforming farm animals into tools requires
their objectification and de-mentalization (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). When lesser minds are
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attributed to farm animals, farming and killing these animals for food appears morally less
bothersome (Bastian et al., 2011).
Belief in the mental capacities of elk is the lowest of all the mammals in this study. People
have little behavior-based knowledge of the abilities of elks in comparison to domestic
animals, which can diminish certainty in evaluating their mental capacities (cf. Mitchell &
Hamm, 1997). Moreover, elk is a typical game animal in Finland, and it is hunted all over the
country (Bisi et al., 2010). Because of the utilization of elks as food and game, they are
constructed as tools in the sociozoological scale, which can motivate people to assign them
with lesser minds.
This research confirms that belief in the mental capacities of chickens is low (McGrath et al.,
2013; Phillips et al., 2010; Phillips & McCulloch, 2005). In addition to the phylogenetic
distance of chickens from humans, the low cultural valuation of chicken can also influence
the weak belief in its mental capacities. On the sociozoological scale chicken appear as
highly commodified tools. The anonymity of chickens and regarding them as fast
convenience food can diminish people’s willingness to attribute mind to them.
In this study, belief in the mental capacities of salmon was very low, apart from the capacity
to feel pain. Fish tend to be attributed the least mental capacities among vertebrates (e.g.,
Herzog & Galvin, 1997; McGrath et al., 2013; Phillips et al., 2010). Both phylogenetic
distance and the unfamiliarity of fish influence public perceptions of their mental capacities
(Brown, 2015). In contrast to knowledge of terrestrial animals, people have little knowledge
of the behavioral abilities of fish (Brown, 2015; cf. Mitchell & Hamm, 1997). Moreover, fish
lack recognizable facial expressions and their vocalizations are inaudible to humans (Brown,
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2015). The widespread utilization of salmon in farming and fishing in Finland can also
motivate people to attribute fewer mental abilities to them.
People tend to attribute only minimal mental capacities to invertebrates (Herzog & Galvin,
1997; McGrath et al., 2013). In this study as well, the belief in the mental capacities of
shrimp was low. Invertebrates are often treated in a way that indicates a low belief in their
ability to feel pain and distress, and animal welfare legislation for invertebrates has also been
limited, apart from for cephalopods (Horvath, Angeletti, Nascetti, & Carere, 2013; Sherwin,
2001). Yet, pain research indicates that there is some evidence for pain experience in decapod
crustaceans, the taxon of invertebrates that includes the shrimp (Elwood, 2012). Research
also suggests a range of cognitive capacities in invertebrates, including learning, memory and
communication, which may indicate that invertebrates are cognitively more complex than
they have been credited (Elwood, 2012; Griffin & Speck, 2004; Horvath et al., 2013;
Sherwin, 2001).
Belief in Animal Mind, Social Group Differences and Attitudinal Factors
In this study, the most important factors associated with belief in animal mind include age,
having a companion animal, human-egalitarian attitudes, as well as animal welfare and
animal use attitudes. Younger people tend to attribute more mental capacities to animals.
However, because older people tended more frequently to choose the no answer option,
this study suggests that younger people are more certain in their belief in the mental
capacities of animals. While important gender differences have been identified in attitudes to
animals (Kendall et al., 2006; Walker, McGrath, Nilsson, et al., 2014), in this study gender
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was not associated with perceptions of animal mind, although we identified a modest gender
difference in beliefs regarding the minds of wolves and elks.
Although the place of residence has been identified as an important factor shaping attitudes to
animals (Kendall et al., 2006), in this study the place of residence was not connected to belief
in animal mind. Likewise, no connection was identified between education and belief in
animal mind, with the exception of wolves.
This study confirms that having a companion animal is associated with greater belief in
animal mind (Morris et al., 2012; Walker, McGrath, Handel, et al., 2014). Our research also
demonstrates that valuing human equality is connected with greater belief in animal mind,
indicating that there is a link between human-egalitarian and species-egalitarian attitudes
(Deemer & Lobao, 2011; Dhont et al., 2014). As could be expected, people expressing
greater concern for farm animal welfare and having less instrumentalist attitudes toward
animals tend to attribute more mental capacities to animals. Mind denial helps to diminish
moral unease when utilizing animals, while considering animals as mentally complex
increases concern for their welfare (cf. Bastian et al., 2011).
This study has some limitations: In this research, we measured perceptions of animal mind
with a dichotomous yes/no question with a no answer option. However, a scaled variable
that measures the degree of certainty in belief in animal mind would have provided more
nuanced knowledge of perceptions about animal mind. In addition, including a wider range of
mental capacities and animal species in the survey would have provided more complete
knowledge of how the cultural construction of animals influences perceptions of animal
mind.
21
Conclusion
In this research, we have aimed to further the current knowledge of the public perceptions of
animal mind by examining Finnish citizens perceptions of animal mind and analyzing the
connection between belief in animal mind and an array of background variables.
Phylogenetic categorization and construction of animals on the sociozoological scale as
affectively important, instrumentally useful and harmful, influence people’s perceptions of
animal mind. Young age, having a companion animal, valuing societal equality, as well as
concern for animal welfare and for animal utilization, are connected to greater belief in
animal mind.
Future work should continue developing improved measures for the perceptions of animal
mind and include a wider range of mental capacities and animal species in the study design.
Studies based on nationwide samples from other countries are needed in order to develop a
comprehensive understanding of the public perceptions of animal mind, the social factors
shaping these beliefs and the moral implications of these beliefs.
Footnotes
1 Previous studies have been based on student samples (e.g., Eddy et al., 1993; Herzog &
Galvin, 1997; Phillips et al., 2010; Phillips & McCulloch, 2005), small and non-
representative adult samples (Knight et al., 2004; Morris et al., 2012), samples collected in a
single city (McGrath et al., 2013; Walker, McGrath, Handel, et al., 2014) or samples of
specific groups, such as museum visitors, animal activists and animal keepers (Hills, 1995;
Knight et al., 2009; Maust-Mohl et al., 2012; Morris et al., 2008).
22
2 The survey did not reach 15 sampled persons, and these persons have been removed from
the calculation of the response rate.
3 We have discussed in detail citizen perceptions of the mental capacities of salmon in our
previous publication (Kupsala et al., 2013).
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29
Tables
Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for Background Variables and Survey Participant
Demographics in Comparison with National Population Statistics
Percentage
(Mean)
N (SD)
Population
(% or mean)1
Gender
Female
56.1
1,022
50.2
Male
43.9
801
49.8
Years of age
(49.5)
(15.51)
46.1
Place of residence
Countryside
21.7
386
-
Town or densely populated area
(≤50,000 inhabitants)
38.6
686
-
Town or city (>50,000 inhabitants)
39.7
706
-
Education
Basic
23.5
425
21.7
Intermediate
41.9
758
45.5
Tertiary
34.6
625
32.9
Companion animal
With companion animal
39.7
703
-
Other
60.3
1,067
-
Attitudinal variables
Social equality
(4.02)
(0.72)
-
Farm animal welfare evaluation
(2.64)
(0.77)
-
Animal instrumentalization
(2.25)
(1.18)
-
1
Population statistics are derived from online databases from Statistics Finland (Statistics Finland, 2014a;
Statistics Finland, 2014b). Variables were selected so that the population data is equal to the population of the
survey: year 2010, mainland Finland, people 1875 years old with Finnish as their first language. Yet, as regards
education, in the Statistics Finland data the age group is 2069 years and the population includes all language
groups, not only Finnish-speakers. We combined the educational categories of Statistics Finland to
corresponding categories of the survey.
30
Table 2. Finnish Citizens’ Perceptions of the Mental Capacities of Nonhuman Animals (%)
Dog
Cow
Pig
Wolf
Elk
Chicken
Salmon
Shrimp
Yes
97.3
96.0
95.3
92.1
94.0
91.4
60.7
43.3
No
0.5
1.0
0.9
1.9
1.5
2.8
21.2
33.6
NA
2.2
3.0
3.8
6.0
4.5
5.8
18.1
23.2
Yes
93.1
89.4
87.6
77.7
77.3
69.6
28.7
22.5
No
3.6
4.9
4.8
7.7
8.4
15.3
40.3
45.7
NA
3.3
5.7
7.6
14.6
14.3
15.1
31.0
31.9
Yes
87.1
69.7
63.6
62.4
57.0
37.8
12.9
10.5
No
5.8
13.9
16.0
15.1
19.8
34.6
52.2
54.2
NA
7.1
16.4
20.4
22.5
23.2
27.6
34.9
35.3
Yes
96.6
87.6
79.5
63.4
56.7
48.2
11.6
9.2
No
1.4
5.1
8.4
15.7
21.9
29.2
54.1
55.7
NA
2.0
7.3
12.1
20.9
21.4
22.6
34.3
35.1
Yes
78.6
59.5
55.7
66.1
57.1
39.7
12.3
9.1
No
12.0
20.7
22.0
15.4
22.5
34.3
53.0
55.0
NA
9.4
19.8
22.3
18.5
20.4
25.9
34.7
35.9
Yes
92.8
85.7
80.6
85.0
84.3
62.7
35.3
24.5
No
1.3
3.0
4.6
2.3
3.2
17.4
34.2
41.6
NA
6.0
11.3
14.8
12.7
12.5
19.9
30.5
33.9
Yes
80.3
66.4
65.5
66.4
61.6
41.2
20.0
11.8
No
9.5
15.9
16.1
14.1
17.7
33.0
47.7
54.6
NA
10.2
17.7
18.4
19.5
20.7
25.8
32.3
33.7
Yes
77.7
61.1
56.6
67.7
62.2
32.4
13.2
9.9
No
9.9
18.7
21.4
13.3
16.9
39.9
53.8
56.6
NA
12.3
20.2
22.0
19.0
20.9
27.7
32.9
33.4
31
Table 3. Mean Scores of Belief in Animal Mind Scales
Belief in animal
mind scales
Mean
Confidence interval (95%) for mean
SD
Lower bound
Upper bound
Dog
7.04
6.97
7.10
1.50
Cow
6.15
6.06
6.25
2.04
Pig
5.84
5.74
5.95
2.25
Wolf
5.81
5.70
5.92
2.45
Elk
5.50
5.39
5.61
2.37
Chicken
4.23
4.12
4.34
2.47
Salmon
1.95
1.85
2.04
2.12
Shrimp
1.41
1.31
1.50
2.02
32
Table 4. Regression Models for Belief in Dog and Cow Mind Scales
1
Belief in dog mind
Belief in cow mind
β
Std error
Beta
β
Std error
Beta
Gender (Male = 0)
.020
.072
.007
-.121
.099
-.030
Years of age
-.006*
.002
-.067*
-.006
.003
-.049
Place of residence
Countryside (ref. group)
-
-
-
-
-
-
Town or densely populated
area (≤50,000 inhabitants)
-.012
.094
-.004
-.135
.129
-.033
Town or city (>50,000)
.049
.096
.017
-.108
.133
-.027
Education
Basic (ref. group)
-
-
-
-
-
-
Intermediate
.099
.095
.034
.128
.130
.032
Tertiary
-.015
.099
-.005
.140
.136
.034
Companion animal (Non-
keeper = 0)
.184*
.072
.063*
.196*
.099
.049*
Attitudinal factors
Social equality
.065
.050
.033
.186**
.069
.067**
Farm animal welfare
evaluation
-.039
.049
-.021
.119
.068
.046
Animal instrumentalization
-.171***
.032
-.141***
-.262***
.045
-.156***
Constant
7.471
6.030
Adjusted R2
.034
.048
1
Linear regression; t-test: * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001; β = Unstandardized coefficients; Beta =
Standardized coefficients.
33
Table 5. Regression Models for Belief in Pig and Wolf Mind Scales
1
Belief in pig mind
Belief in wolf mind
β
Std error
Beta
β
Std error
Beta
Gender (Male = 0)
-.207
.108
-.047
-.584***
.111
-.123***
Years of age
-.012**
.004
-.082**
-.034***
.004
-.221***
Place of residence
Countryside (ref. group)
-
-
-
-
-
-
Town or densely populated
area (≤50,000 inhabitants)
-.120
.142
-.027
.104
.145
.022
Town or city (>50,000)
.011
.146
.002
.258
.150
.054
Education
Basic (ref. group)
-
-
-
-
-
-
Intermediate
.042
.143
.009
.267
.147
.056
Tertiary
.232
.150
.051
.326*
.154
.067*
Companion animal (Non-
keeper = 0)
.283*
.109
.063*
.295**
.112
.061**
Attitudinal factors
Social equality
.269***
.076
.087***
.316***
.078
.096***
Farm animal welfare
evaluation
.222**
.075
.077**
.291***
.077
.094***
Animal instrumentalization
-.286***
.049
-.153***
-.313***
.050
-.156***
Constant
5.400
6.071
Adjusted R2
.074
.152
1
Linear regression; t-test: * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001; β = Unstandardized coefficients; Beta =
Standardized coefficients.
34
Table 6. Regression Models for Belief in Elk and Chicken Mind Scales
1
Belief in elk mind
Belief in chicken
mind
β
Std error
Beta
β
Std error
Beta
Gender (Male = 0)
-.402***
.113
-.086***
.073
.122
.015
Years of age
-.024***
.004
-.157***
-.004
.004
-.025
Place of residence
Countryside (ref. group)
-
-
-
-
-
-
Town or densely populated
area (≤50,000 inhabitants)
-.021
.148
-.004
-.242
.159
-.048
Town or city (>50,000)
.202
.152
.043
-.138
.164
-.028
Education
Basic (ref. group)
-
-
-
-
-
-
Intermediate
.217
.149
.046
.196
.161
.039
Tertiary
.166
.156
.034
.123
.168
.024
Companion animal (Non-
keeper = 0)
.243*
.113
.051*
.332**
.122
.066**
Attitudinal factors
Social equality
.285***
.079
.088***
.306***
.085
.089***
Farm animal welfare
evaluation
.338***
.078
.111***
.460***
.084
.143***
Animal instrumentalization
-.259***
.051
-.131***
-.222***
.055
-.106***
Constant
5.169
2.363
Adjusted R2
.104
.069
1
Linear regression; t-test: * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001; β = Unstandardized coefficients; Beta =
Standardized coefficients.
... The cognitive abilities of animals, as well as an individual's belief in animal mind (BAM), can also influence attitudes toward animals and their use and treatment (e.g., Cornish et al., 2016;Hawkins & William, 2016;Hills, 1995;Knight et al., 2003;Knight et al., 2004;Kupsala et al., 2016;Maust-Mohl et al., 2012;Morris et al., 2012;Spence et al., 2017). Research suggests that women, younger individuals, and prior experience or familiarity with animals, especially pets, promote greater acceptance of cognitive abilities in nonhuman animals (e.g., Hawkins & William, 2016;Kupsala et al., 2016;Maust-Mohl et al., 2012;McGrath et al., 2013;Morris et al., 2012). ...
... The cognitive abilities of animals, as well as an individual's belief in animal mind (BAM), can also influence attitudes toward animals and their use and treatment (e.g., Cornish et al., 2016;Hawkins & William, 2016;Hills, 1995;Knight et al., 2003;Knight et al., 2004;Kupsala et al., 2016;Maust-Mohl et al., 2012;Morris et al., 2012;Spence et al., 2017). Research suggests that women, younger individuals, and prior experience or familiarity with animals, especially pets, promote greater acceptance of cognitive abilities in nonhuman animals (e.g., Hawkins & William, 2016;Kupsala et al., 2016;Maust-Mohl et al., 2012;McGrath et al., 2013;Morris et al., 2012). Other studies evaluating BAM suggest that species perceived to be more similar to humans on the hypothetical phylogenetic scale, such as large mammals, are considered more advanced and thus tend to be assigned more cognitive abilities (e.g., Cornish et al., 2016;Driscoll, 1995;Eddy et al., 1993;Herzog & Galvin, 1997;Nakajima et al., 2002). ...
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... After the demographic factors, speciesism was the strongest predictor accounting for the highest proportion of the variance in rated attitudes across the range of species and purposes measured using the APQ. An important factor to consider may be a species' cultural role (Kupsala et al., 2016;Possidónio et al., 2019Possidónio et al., , 2021. Tisdell et al. (2005) included only wildlife species, whereas the present study used species likely to be characterised as pet/companion, pest and profit; in this way, the current study captured the additional influence of a species' cultural role on likeability ratings. ...
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... Second, NPT is itself a di cult and cognitively taxing exercise 24 , especially when targets are non-human animals [25][26][27] . As extant literature suggests, basic emotions seen in animals do not map onto human categories 28, 29 , a belief also held by laypeople for many species 30,31 . If empathy is aided when a person feels they belong to the same category (e.g., species) as the victim 32 , the genetic differences between man and beast limit the ability to infer an animal's mental and emotional state, impeding NPT, empathy, and relatedness 33 . ...
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... Die Mastschweinehaltung steht im Fokus der gesellschaftlichen Aufmerksamkeit, da zum einen das Tierwohl und die Haltungsform in der Schweinehaltung relativ zur Rinder-und Schafhaltung schlechter von Bürger*innen bewertet werden (European Commission 2016; Kayser et al. 2012;SocialLab Konsortium 2019). Zum anderen werden Mastschweine von Bürger*innen im Vergleich zu Geflügel als intelligenter und empathischer wahrgenommen (Kupsala et al. 2016). ...
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Zitiervorschlag: GROßE STREINE, L; KLINK-LEHMANN, J.; WEINGARTEN, N.; SIMONS, J.; S. UND HARTMANN, M.: (2021): Konkurrierende Schutzgüter in der Tierhaltung: Analyse aus Sicht der Konsument*innen. Landwirtschaftliche Fakultät der Universität Bonn, Schriftenreihe des Lehr-und Forschungsschwerpunktes USL, Nr. 194, 85 Seiten.
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Belief in the mental lives of nonhuman animals can have an impact on how we view and treat them, yet little is known about how and why laypeople attribute emotions to other species. The current study investigated how familiarity with animals (in terms of ownership) relates to beliefs regarding different emotions within and across species. An opportunity sample of 200 participants completed a questionnaire that measured familiarity with animals and beliefs about the capacity of a variety of species to experience a range of 16 different emotions. Participants reported varied levels of experience with animals and it was found that, regardless of familiarity, participants reported a wide variety of emotions in all the species they were asked to consider. However, participants who had never lived with an animal reported far fewer emotions than those who had, regardless of species. Keeping more than one animal did not increase the number of emotions reported. Keepers of a particular species always reported more emotions for that species than nonkeepers of that species. We conclude that familiarity with animals is an important determinant of belief about emotions in animals and animal mind in general.
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We are familiar with Black Liberation, Gay Liberation, and a variety of other movements. With Women’s Liberation some thought we had come to the end of the road. Discrimination on the basis of sex, it has been said, is the last form of discrimination that is universally accepted and practised without pretence, even in those liberal circles which have long prided themselves on their freedom from racial discrimination. But one should always be wary of talking of ‘the last remaining form of discrimination’. If we have learned anything from the liberation movements, we should have learned how difficult it is to be aware of the ways in which we discriminate until they are forcefully pointed out to us. A liberation movement demands an expansion of our moral horizons, so that practices that were previously regarded as natural and inevitable are now seen as intolerable.
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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.