Investigating intention in non-human animals: a need for a new theoretical and methodological framework - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2022

Investigating intention in non-human animals: a need for a new theoretical and methodological framework


Purpose: While intentions are commonly assessed in humans, this is not the case in non-human animals, which may limit the accuracy of the assessment of their welfare status, which depends, in particular, on whether their expectations are met. Our assumption is that the current approaches in ethology do not take into consideration the possibility that animals have intentions. Our objective is to find the way to evaluate animal intentions. Method: We have developed a two-steps method: i) a bibliometric investigation to identify and select key approaches to study intention within a team gathering ethologists, psychologists and epistemologists. ii) The key approaches identified were confronted to current practices in ethology through three one-day interdisciplinary workshops, gathering 21 researchers in ethology, psychology, law, philosophy, veterinary, learning sciences, management sciences and design. Each workshop had three stages: a disciplinary assessment, an interdisciplinary prospect and a collective design. Results: Step 1: In Scopus database from the 2016-2020, we extracted 89 000 papers with intention in title and keywords. Only 1% of them were explicitly dealing with intention in non-human animals. We analysed the co-occurrence of the authors’ keywords of this 1% papers, to specify the scientific approaches with the CorText Platform. We found 10 discrepant approaches: behavioural flexibility & social context; human-animal interaction & domestication; mirror neuron & language; flexibility & meaning; self-domestication & disease; comparative cognition & auditory; handedness & manipulation; brain evolution & cultural evolution; antiphony & duets and teaching & tradition. All are relative to what we know about human intention, none was specific of what could be non-human animal intention. Step 2: The 3 workshops were successful. Disciplinary assessment: all participants translated the ten approaches into relevant scientific concepts, method and questions in their own discipline. Interdisciplinary prospect: split in groups, participants co-elaborated a hypothesis to study animal intentions based on the combination of concepts, methods and questions gathered on 3 of 10 approaches. Here are three examples: H1. Intention is not directly accessible, but it can be expressed through behavioural adaptations in the relationship. H2. The study of the environment effects on interactions reveals intentions. H3. Interactions have different repercussions on the maintenance or emission or even the valence of the behaviour or intention. Collective design: 7 protocols to test the hypothesis were developed. We will present the overall outputs of the workshops and discuss the power of hypothesis and protocols to prevent anthropocentric approaches when studying animal intention
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hal-03800278 , version 1 (06-10-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03800278 , version 1


Anne-Lise Dauphine-Morer, Alain Boissy, Franck Zenasni, Muriel Mambrini-Doudet. Investigating intention in non-human animals: a need for a new theoretical and methodological framework. 55. Congress of the International Society of Applied Ethology, Sep 2022, Ohrid, Macedonia. ⟨hal-03800278⟩
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