Public Perceptions of Animal Thinking
Holmes, Jeannine Elizabeth
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In a systematic replication of a survey by Rasmussen, Rajecki, and Craft (1993), 241 undergraduate psychology students and 148 members of the public were asked to indicate how reasonable it was that a child, dog, cat, bird, or fish had the capacity for each of 12 different cognitive abilities. Consistent with the original study, participants credited both children and animals with simple thinking, but reserved ascriptions of complex thinking to children. However, perceptions of animal cognition appear to have improved since the original study. Specifically, results revealed a general increase in participant ascriptions of complex thinking to animals, converging perceptions related to mammals, and an increase in perceptions of fish cognition. I also assessed the impact of the Internet and social media on public perceptions of animal cognition. While a significant impact was not noted, further examination in this area would be beneficial given the limited scope of my initial investigation and the significant power these mediums provide in information sharing and accessibility.