Belief in animal mind among Spanish primary school children

David Menor-Campos, Roxanne Hawkins, Joanne Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beliefs concerning the mental experiences of non-human animals have been related to how people treat, see and take care of non-human animals. Whereas this issue has been the subject of several studies on adults, few have been conducted with children. Taking advantage of a recently published scale, the Child-BAM questionnaire, we aimed to explore the beliefs in animal minds of Spanish primary school children. The study also considered the effects of a child’s age, school year group, gender, and pet ownership on their beliefs in animal mind. The Child-BAM questionnaire, concerning the mental capabilities of eight different species (human, chimpanzee, dog, cow, otter, sparrow, frog and fish), was distributed at a primary school sited in Cordoba, Spain. A total of 416 participants were included aged between six and thirteen years. Each child provided scores for animals’ ability to have intelligence, experience pain, fear, happiness, and sadness, and total scores for the eight species. The results showed that children’s beliefs about animal minds differed depending on the type of animal, and that children were more likely to believe in emotional capacities of animals rather than their cognitive capabilities. Dogs achieved similar scores to humans regarding all capabilities, and higher than any other species, while the cow, fish and frog generally scored the lowest. Age, school year group, and having a companion animal at home affected beliefs in animal minds, whereas gender had no effect. This study highlights cultural similarities in children’s beliefs about animal minds and the potential importance of this variable for future research in child-animal interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-614
Issue number5
Early online date19 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • animals
  • Child-BAM
  • belief in animal mind
  • children
  • sentience
  • human–animal interaction,

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