The basis and nature of attitudes toward animal use
: a psychological approach

  • Sarah Knight

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The human-animal relationship is a peculiar one. On the one hand we, the British public, are often described as a nation of animal lovers, whilst on the other hand, we allow for the use of large numbers of animals in ways that often entail discomfort and death to those animals involved. Seemingly disparate attitudes toward animal use are common. both inter- and intra- individuals and groups (Podberscek, Paul & Serpell, 2000). Yet whilst factors that underlie views on animal use are psychological in nature (Pious, 1993; Serpell, 2004),social scientists have only just begun to explore the origins of these attitudes(Matthews & Herzog, 1997). Existing research has mostly focused on variables such as gender and personality in order to understand the variance in people's attitudes; these account for a significant, but small, proportion (around 5-10%) of such variance. Instead, the aims of the present project were to understand the basis and nature of attitudes toward animal use by examining the perceptions and beliefs that underlie these views. Comprising six studies that combine quantitative and qualitative methodologies. samples included laypersons (Studies 1-3), students (Study 4), and those involved with animal use issues: scientists involved with the use of animals for medical research and animal welfare persons (Studies 5 & 6). Findings revealed psychological factors that account for up to 65% of the variance in views on animal use, and confirmed was a causal relationship between belief in the existence of alternatives to using animals and attitudes toward animal use. Most important are beliefs concerning: the benefits of medical research. animal rights, the existence of alternatives, the relative importance of human versus animal needs, equality and social recognition. These factors explain incongruent attitudes held inter- and intra- individuals and groups. Findings from this research will appeal to various communities such as scientists and animal welfare persons wishing to engage laypersons and gain support for their work,and academics interested in attitudes and attitude change.
Date of AwardSept 2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorAldert Vrij (Supervisor) & Kim A. Bard (Supervisor)

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