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Attitudes toward Animals: The Effect of Priming Thoughts of Human-Animal Similarities and Mortality Salience on the Evaluation of Companion Animals

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Human attitudes toward nonhuman animals are complex and quite contradictory. They can range between extremely negative (animal cruelty) to positive (treating companion animals like human surrogates). Attitudes toward animals are especially negative when people think about human creatureliness and personal mortality. This paper investigates people's attitudes toward highly valued animals (companion animals). The research presented here tested whether companion-animal caregivers would respond to reminders of human creatureliness and mortality salience (MS) with more negative attitudes toward pets. Participants completed an online survey in which MS and human-creatureliness conditions were manipulated. Results showed that, under MS, even pet owners responded to reminders of human creatureliness with less positive attitudes toward the average pet. Thus, the effects observed in previous research extend to more popular animals, even among people with presumably positive attitudes toward animals.

Affiliations: 1: PhD Candidate, School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia 3086;, Email:; 2: PhD candidate, Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia 3010;, Email:; 3: Senior Lecturer, School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia 3086;, Email:


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