Study: More Empathy For Dogs Than Adult Humans

By Emma Koch - 21Alive

Credit: ASPCA

Study: More Empathy For Dogs Than Adult Humans

August 15, 2013 Updated Aug 15, 2013 at 10:45 AM EDT

UNITED STATES (21Alive) – Researchers at Northeastern University have found that the public has more empathy for a battered dog of any age, than a battered adult human.

The research was presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. Irving and Betty Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Jack Levin, told Science Daily that while many would think we are more disturbed by animal suffering than human suffering, the study found that age was the most important component. Children and dogs, both puppy and adult, are considered dependent and vulnerable.

The study surveyed 240 men and women from Northeastern University, most of whom were white and between the ages of 18 and 25. Respondents were given identical stories of battery but the victim’s identity changed between a 1-year-old child, 30-year-old adult, a puppy and a 6-year-old dog.

"We were surprised by the interaction of age and species," Levin said, according to Science Daily. "Age seems to trump species, when it comes to eliciting empathy. In addition, it appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves while full grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies."

The research also found that the empathy for a child compared to puppy is similar and the differences are “statistically non-significant”.

Researchers believe that the same would be true for cats because both dogs and cats are domestic pets to which many attribute human characteristics.

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