Individuals with Psychopathic Traits and Poor Attitudes towards Animals Can Recognise Infant Features But Give Them Reduced Attentional Priority

Grace Carroll, Leah Cohen, Aideen McParland, Samantha Jack, V. Tamara Montrose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Infant features are physical traits that are characteristic of human infants and include facial features such as large and low-lying eyes, and a small nose and mouth. Animals possessing high levels of infant features elicit care-giving responses in humans. Despite this, animal cruelty is a common occurrence. The aim of this research was to determine whether the ability to recognise and/or attend to infant features is linked to subclinical psychopathic traits and attitudes towards animals. Using a community sample, participants (n = 387) completed a cuteness forced-choice task. Self-reported psychopathy and attitude towards animals were not related to the participants’ ability to detect cues of cuteness in human infants and animals. In a second study, participants (n = 142) were screened for low versus high primary psychopathy and low versus high animal attitude scores. A Psychopathy-Attitude Composite score was created and a subset of participants (n = 50) from the upper and lower quartiles completed a free-viewing eye-tracking task where ‘Cute’, ‘Neutral, ‘Monetary’ and ‘Control’ images were presented in pairs. Higher levels of psychopathic traits and an anti-animal welfare attitude were associated with decreased attention to ‘Cute’ images in terms of decreased dwell time, mean fixation duration and mean fixation count, measures of voluntary attention. There were a number of interactions between Psychopathy Attitude Composite classification and attention to each image category in terms of dwell time, first fixation duration, mean fixation duration and fixation count. These findings support the theory that individuals with psychopathic traits recognise facial cues of vulnerability but choose to give them reduced attentional priority. This may have implications for animal welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721
Number of pages21
JournalAnimals
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2020

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