Emotional Contagion and Mimicry of Behavior between Horses and their Handlers
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- Master's theses (IHA) 
This study is about emotional contagion and mimicry of behavior between horses and their handlers. Behavioral mimicry is defined as doing what others are doing, and appears to be strongly connected with social affiliative behavior. I investigated mimicry through head tests and walk tests to see if horses changed their movement together with a familiar human handler, also evaluating any effects of the horse’s age, sex, breed type, and housing. I wanted to determine if there was a correlation between the amount of affiliative behavior shown by the horse to their familiar handler and the degree of the horse’s behavioral mimicry of the handler’s movements. Emotional contagion is considered to occur when it appears that an observer spontaneously copies the emotional state of a demonstrator and exhibits an expected behavioral reaction to that emotion. I used an object test to see if a familiar human handler’s reaction to an unfamiliar object affected the horse’s reaction. I also investigated whether the object type, and horse’s age, sex, breed type or housing influenced the horse’s behavioral response.