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Open AccessReview

Emotional Transfer in Human–Horse Interaction: New Perspectives on Equine Assisted Interventions

1
Italian National Reference Centre for Animal Assisted Interventions, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, 35020 Legnaro (Padua), Italy
2
Department of Information Engineering, University of Pisa, 56122 Pisa, Italy
3
Feel-Ing s.r.l., 56122 Pisa, Italy
4
Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pisa, 56124 Pisa, Italy
5
Bioengineering and Robotic Research Center “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, 56122 Pisa, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(12), 1030; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121030
Received: 22 October 2019 / Revised: 19 November 2019 / Accepted: 22 November 2019 / Published: 26 November 2019
Equine assisted interventions (EAIs) represent an emerging field of animal assisted interventions (AAIs), employing horses in a wide variety of activities with humans. Based on the socio-emotional competences of this species, which evolved sophisticated communicative skills to interrelate with humans, we here hypothesized the occurrence of an interspecific emotional transfer during interventions. The emotional transfer hypothesis suggests a mutual coordination of emotional states of humans and horses, which are going through a coupling process during the interaction. Even though this mechanism is supported by few existing studies on human-horse emotional fine-tuning, it could play a key role in EAIs. We moreover propose to measure this coordination through monitoring physiological variables with a novel multidisciplinary method. In the future, having an insight on emotional states of animals involved in AAIs could be useful to ameliorate the wellbeing of both animal and human subjects and to better standardize operational strategies.
Equine assisted interventions (EAIs) include all therapeutic interventions aimed at improving human wellbeing through the involvement of horses. Due to the prominent emotional involvement traditionally characterizing their relation with humans, horses developed sophisticated communicative skills, which fostered their ability to respond to human emotional states. In this review, we hypothesize that the proximate causation of successful interventions could be human–animal mutual coordination, through which the subjects bodily and, most importantly, emotionally come into contact. We propose that detecting emotions of other individuals and developing the capacity to fine-tune one’s own emotional states accordingly (emotional transfer mechanism), could represent the key engine triggering the positive effects of EAIs. We provide a comprehensive analysis of horses’ socio-emotional competences according to recent literature and we propose a multidisciplinary approach to investigate this inter-specific match. By considering human and horse as a unique coupling system during the interaction, it would be possible to objectively measure the degree of coordination through the analysis of physiological variables of both human and animal. Merging the state of art on human–horse relationship with the application of novel methodologies, could help to improve standardized protocols for animal assisted interventions, with particular regard to the emotional states of subjects involved. View Full-Text
Keywords: human–horse interaction; animal assisted interventions; equine assisted interventions; horse; Equus caballus; emotional transfer; emotional intelligence; physiological signals; non-linear dynamic models human–horse interaction; animal assisted interventions; equine assisted interventions; horse; Equus caballus; emotional transfer; emotional intelligence; physiological signals; non-linear dynamic models
MDPI and ACS Style

Scopa, C.; Contalbrigo, L.; Greco, A.; Lanatà, A.; Scilingo, E.P.; Baragli, P. Emotional Transfer in Human–Horse Interaction: New Perspectives on Equine Assisted Interventions. Animals 2019, 9, 1030. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121030

AMA Style

Scopa C, Contalbrigo L, Greco A, Lanatà A, Scilingo EP, Baragli P. Emotional Transfer in Human–Horse Interaction: New Perspectives on Equine Assisted Interventions. Animals. 2019; 9(12):1030. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121030

Chicago/Turabian Style

Scopa, Chiara; Contalbrigo, Laura; Greco, Alberto; Lanatà, Antonio; Scilingo, Enzo P.; Baragli, Paolo. 2019. "Emotional Transfer in Human–Horse Interaction: New Perspectives on Equine Assisted Interventions" Animals 9, no. 12: 1030. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121030

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