Animal Studies Bibliography

The Relationship Between Thing-Person Orientation and the Perception of Animals .
Hills, Adelma M. (1989)
Anthrozoos . v.3, n. 2, pg. 100-110

Humans relate to animals in two ways. On the one hand, they are viewed as things and are valued by their usefulness to humans. On the other hand, a deeper connection is felt between human and animal. This is a fundamental kinship best expressed by pet keeping. Thing-like versus person-like perception of animals may very well be a reflection of the basic differences in the way that people construe the world. The debate over person-like versus thing-like is also at the heart of the moral debate over animals. Previous psychological studies have focused primarily on the benefits that humans derive from interaction with animals. Few have addressed the nature of the human-animal relationship. The present study is modeled using Little's Thing-Person (T-P) scale and rating scales to measure various personalistic perceptions of animals. Thing specialists are high T, low P; person specialists are high P, low T; generalists are high T and P; and nonspecialists are low T and P. Thing specialists construe people and thing using objective physicalistic criteria while person specialists use more subjective psychological constructs. Nonspecialists emphasize the relevance of environmental objects to the self and generalists are more open to female and male aspects of the self and exhibit greater versatility in the construct of people and things. Sex, age, and orientation toward animals were considered predictor variables. It was hypothesized that an individuals' general interest in animals would influence their perceptions.

The sample was taken from a group of 50 males and 51 females who were asked by research assistants if they would like to participate. Their ages ranged from 16 to 60 years. They were asked to rate 18 different animals on each of eight rating scales. Scales 1, 6, and 7 referred to dimensions of like versus dislike ( liking ), unattractive versus attractive ( attract ), and familiar versus unfamiliar ( fam .). The remaining five scales referred to personalistic or psychological perceptions of the animals: perception as people scale ( people ), emotionality scale ( emotion ), personality scale ( person ), individuality scale ( indiv .), and facial expressiveness scale ( facial ). Five point scales were used with 5 being positive and 1 being negative. The second part of the questionnaire used Little's 24 T-P scale items randomly interspersed with 12 items referring to orientation toward animals. The was the T-P-A orientation scale.

By using a hierarchical multiple regression analysis, sex, differential P score (high Pdiff scores show person specialists), and generality score ( high generality shows generalist, low generality shows nonspecialist) were found to be significantly correlated with the A score. With regards to the relationship between the predictor variables and the animal perception variables, sex was negatively correlated with all the personalistic perceptions and liking, generality was positively correlated with individuality and liking, and significant positive scores were found between all the rating scores and the A score. Using canonical correlation analyses, younger, male, thing specialists with low A scores are less likely to relate to humans, rabbits, koala bears, butterflies, ducks, and horses as people. Younger, female, person specialists are more likely to like koala bears, rabbits, parrots, butterflies, mice, dogs, elephants, monkeys, and horses and less likely to like fish. Females were more oriented toward animals than males Generalists and person specialists were also more oriented toward animals than nonspecialists and thing specialists.

The results suggest that an interest in animals is more strongly associated with interest in people than interest in things. Age was not significant.

Wildlife management are in great need of assessing the range of different attitudes and values held by people in respect to animals. This type of research is very useful in educating wildlife managers and policymakers as to what the views are of the whole community in order to come to a balanced decision.


Visit the Michigan State University Homepage Return to the Animal Studies Homepage