Research Article

Human attitudes towards animals in relation to species similarity to humans: a multivariate approach

Sarah Batt

University of Chester


29 Sep 2008


18 Dec 2008


20 Apr 2009






human attitudes, animals, multivariate conservation


Human attitudes towards animals are becoming of increasing importance in the areas of conservation and welfare. It has long been taken for granted that our attitudes are influenced by the degree of biological or behavioural similarity between a given species and ourselves. This research investigates whether there is a link between bio-behavioural similarity to humans and preferences for animal species that are obtained when subjects view a set of 40 pictures illustrating a wide diversity of animals. Extensive data regarding the natural history, behaviour and physiology of 40 species of animals from a wide range of taxonomic groups were collected. Bio-behavioural similarity between animal species and humans was formed on the basis of multidimensional analyses, including factors such as size, weight and lifespan among the physical attributes, and reproductive strategy, parental investment and social organization among the behavioural traits. It was found that a clear relationship between similarity and preference exists, suggesting that humans are predisposed to liking species on the basis of shared bio-behavioural traits. These results imply that efforts made in the conservation and welfare of species may be biased more by anthropocentric views than has been previously recognized. It may be important for a new approach to be taken when it comes to determining the targets of conservation.