Inconclusive results concerning the association between heart rate variability, personality, and the objectification of lab-animals into the conduct of animal testing.

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To develop pharmaceutical drugs from which human benefit, nonhuman animals (hereafter “animals”) used in laboratory research may undergo painful tests, and it might be that psychological factors numb the considerations humans have for them to facilitate their objectification. Drawing on a single-study and using an ultra-realistic protocol mimicking animal research (n = 145), we examined the roles of individual dispositions and of the identification of the laboratory animal in facilitating a harmful animal research being conducted. We hypothesized that high social dominance orientation and speciesist dispositions, low empathy, and the objectification of the lab-animal (compared to its personification) would increase the willingness to harm and kill it for science, and that its objectification would reduce the stress-response associated with doing so. Crucially, because low self-regulatory abilities (i.e., low heart rate variability) are associated with less discomfort seeing other in suffering, we hypothesized it would also be associated to a greater willingness to harm the lab-animal. The results of this research were inconclusive and neither individual dispositions nor objectification of the lab-animal significantly predicted participant’s behavior. Also, we could not determine whether objectification (or personification) of the lab-animal affected the stress response associated with its use in research. We argue that the weak statistical power of this research probably prevented us from reaching find any relevant findings and that future research should address this gap.

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