An Animal’s Environment Influences Perceptions of Docility and Vigor But Not Aesthetic Appeal: A Constructive Replication

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Shifts toward naturalistic zoo enclosures in the last decades of the 20th century prompted research findings that perceptions of animals were influenced by their environment. The current study replicated and expanded upon that prior work. University students (n = 1,253) viewed animals in wild, naturalistic, front cage bar, or back cage bar settings with a name-only control and rated each animal on 11 semantic characteristics. Exploratory factor analysis of those ratings revealed underlying constructs of aesthetic appeal, docility, and vigor. Women perceived animals as more aesthetically appealing than did men. Perceptions of docility increased and vigor decreased as the naturalness of the environment declined. Measures of nature relatedness and environmental motives were not altered by viewing different environments but those traits influenced perceptions of aesthetic appeal. The current findings show that environment alters some but not all of the elements of how animals are perceived by the public.


This article was originally published in Environment and Behavior. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Environment and Behavior


© The Author(s) 2019