Emotions and cognition: a new approach to animal welfare
The concept of quality of life in animals is closely associated with the concepts of animal sentience and animal welfare. It reflects a positive approach that inquires what animals like or prefer doing. The assessment of farm animal welfare requires a good understanding of the animals'
affective experience, including their emotions. However, affective experience in animals is difficult to measure because of the absence of verbal communication. Recent studies in the field of cognitive psychology have shown that affective experience can be investigated without using verbal
communication by examination of the interactions between emotions and cognition. On the one hand, appraisal theories provide a conceptual framework which suggests that emotions in humans are triggered by a cognitive process whereby the situation is evaluated on a limited number of elementary
criteria such as familiarity and predictability. We have applied these appraisal theories to develop an experimental approach for studying the elementary criteria used by farm animals to evaluate their environment and the combinations of those criteria that trigger emotions. On the other hand,
an increasing body of research, first in humans and then in other animals, suggests that emotions also influence cognitive processes by modifying attention, memory and judgement in a short- or long-term manner. Cognitive processes could therefore be manipulated and measured to provide new
insights into how not only emotions but also more persistent affective states can be assessed in animals. Further work based on these cognitive approaches will offer new paradigms for improving our understanding of animal welfare, thus contributing to 'a life of high quality' in animals.