Lien social et développement

The understanding of the importance of social bonding and its modalities is modelled by studying the human- animal relationship. Although this does not constitute a proper " social " context, bonding does occur. One widespread practice, animal-assisted therapy, is based on very little scientific information, and hence little knowledge on their real consequences on humans or animals.

Schema d'une succession d'interactions
  1. Impact potentiel et les modalités d'interactions entre les enfants autistes et les animaux
  2. Obviously, bonding more than the mere presence of the animal accounts for these findings.
  3. Les relations homme-animal apparaissent comme une situation fructueuse pour étudier les mécanismes de mise en place d'une relation

Impact potentiel et les modalités d'interactions entre les enfants autistes et les animaux

We develop interdisciplinary investigations of the potential impact and modalities of interactions between autistic children and animals through parental questionnaires, social and cognitive clinical evaluations and ethological observations. It appears that 1) interindividual variability is important, some children approach an unfamiliar animal very closely, others just observe it while yet others avoid it, suggesting that practices should take individual wishes into account; 2) in such contexts, these children may actively seek visual attention from their parents ; 3) improvement in traits related to empathy, such as offering to comfort or sharing, can be observed when an animal has been acquired at home after the child was 5 years old (and developed a privileged relationship with it).

Obviously, bonding more than the mere presence of the animal accounts for these findings.

The processes of establishment of human-animal relationships and the animals' point of view are  tested using Hinde's  model of relationships being based on repeated interactions. It appears that the use of positive actions during training is a source of horses' long term positive memory of humans, whereas the use of even mild negative reinforcers (a common practice), could compromise a relationship by triggering emotions and creating a long-lasting negative memory. Generalization can occur and memory of one trainer has consequences on how horses " consider " humans in general. Moreover, horses build a multimodal representation of familiar humans. Horses are sensitive to human visual attention and conversely human actions may trigger horses' attention. One original result is the finding that horses' expectations are such that some of them do not learn to perform a task to obtain food as they wait for humans to do it for them!

Les relations homme-animal apparaissent comme une situation fructueuse pour étudier les mécanismes de mise en place d'une relation

Overall, human-animal relationships appear as a fruitful situation to investigate the mechanisms of  establishment of a relationship and our results emphasize the role of attentional processes and multimodality in the development of social bonding. Social bonding may be a source of cognitive and social improvement in particular because it triggers social (visual) attention.