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Public Perceptions of Mental Capacities of Nonhuman Animals

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Finnish Population Survey

image of Society & Animals

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.

Affiliations: 1: University of Eastern Finland, Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies JoensuuFinlandFinnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Environmental Policy Centre HelsinkiFinland ; 2: University of Tampere, School of Management TampereFinland ; 3: University of Turku, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research TurkuFinland


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