The Science and Social Validity of Companion Animal Welfare: Functionally Defined Parameters in a Multidisciplinary Field
Social validity refers to the social significance and acceptability of intervention goals, procedures, and outcomes. Animal practitioners, who are often guided by the principles of ABA, lack the benefit of verbal participants (at least with respect to target animals) with which to assess a client’s needs and preferences. The study of a learner’s welfare is useful for determining areas where intervention is needed or how the learner feels about an intervention that is underway. Three tenets of animal welfare measurement include physiological function, naturalistic behavior, and affect, where affect refers to private events, including emotions, which are a function of the same variables and contingencies responsible for controlling public behavior. The development of new technologies allows us to look “under the skin” and account for subjective experiences that can now be observed objectively. We introduce the reader to tools available from the animal welfare sciences for the objective measurement of social validity from the learner’s perspective.