Child-animal interactions: how species influences emotion perception

Maria Elide Vanutelli, Irene Venturella, Laura Angioletti, Michela Balconi

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno


It has been highlighted that animals are more and more present in our everyday life, especially when speaking about children, and many previous studies demonstrated the positive effects of child-animal interactions. This new theme is attracting increasing attention by the scientific community, thus leading to the formulation of some theoretical positions about inter-species relationships. For example, it has been shown that children show an innate interest in animals and a propensity to approach them. Even in the very first months of life they exhibit a visual preference for videos representing animals than other animated subjects. Nonetheless, scientific evidence is still missing with respect to the emotional and neural substrates of human-animal interactions, and should take into account the psychological level. To do so, the present study involved the participation of 34 children who were asked to passively view affective pictures depicting both child-child (CC) and child-animal interactions (CA) while their electrocortical activity (EEG) was monitored and recorded. Results showed increased delta activity while viewing CA stimuli. Such effect was also characterized by a lateralization pattern over frontal sites, with increased left-lateralized responses for positive pictures and right-lateralized responses for neutral ones. Considering the functional role of this frequency band, related to both attentional and emotional mechanisms, it is possible to assume that such stimuli did trigger both processes. For what concerns high-frequency bands, instead, increased beta (higher power) and alpha (decreased power) activity emerged during CA stimulation. Also in this case a lateralization effect emerged over fronto-central sites, with left-sided responses for positive pictures and right-sided responses for negative ones. Since lateralized patterns involving alpha band have been often explored for affective processes, it could be hypothesized that this kind of stimuli are highly connoted from an emotional point of view. Finally, considering gamma band, an increased activity emerged for CA animals, but only for negatively valenced ones. Gamma band is associated with complex cognitive processes related to integrative mechanisms and problem-solving. Considering children’s natural propensity to approach animals, the vision of negative scenarios depicting aggressive individuals could create an incongruent response. The preliminary results obtained in the present study suggest the importance of a systematic study on the neurophysiological correlates of human-animal interactions with respect to intra- and inter-species contexts, to assess similarities and specificities from an evolutionary point of view.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteAtti del «XXV Congresso della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia e Neuroscienze Cognitive»
Numero di pagine1
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017
EventoXXV Congresso della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia e Neuroscienze Cognitive - Roma
Durata: 16 nov 201718 nov 2017


ConvegnoXXV Congresso della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia e Neuroscienze Cognitive


  • Animals
  • Emotion perception
  • Inter-species
  • Interaction


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