Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Steven B. Tuber

Committee Members

Arietta Slade

Hilary Gomes

Deidre Anglin

Diana Punales

Subject Categories



Recent research suggests that children's identification with animals and propensity to learn from animal experiences might make animal-focused interventions ideal for social and emotional development. A child's ability to understand their own and others' feeling states has been linked to emotional resilience and has been identified as a protective factor against the development of pathology later in life (Allen & Fonagy, 2006). This study examined the impact of an ongoing conservation-based intervention in Burkina Faso on conservation attitudes, mentalization and empathy. Participants were 106 Burkinabe students, 56 male and 50 female, ages 9-15. Participants were split into four groups, a direct exposure, indirect exposure in the field, indirect exposure in the classroom, and a control group. Primary outcome measures were modified versions of the Children's Environmental Attitude and Knowledge Scale (CHEAKS; Leeming, O'Dwyer & Bracken, 1995), the Mentalizing Stories test for Adolescents (MSA; Vrouva & Fonagy, 2009), and the Basic Empathy Scale (BES; Jolliffe & Farrington, 2006). Significant between-group differences in change scores were found on the modified CHEAKS. The group with direct exposure to elephants showed greater positive change scores than all three other groups. No significant between-group differences were found on the modified MSA or BES. Pre-post changes in qualitative data were also examined.


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