Abused dogs elicit more empathy than some people


Lance Tillson

According to a news release from the American Sociological Association, people have more empathy for abused puppies and adult dogs than they do for some full-grown humans.

Jack Levin, the Irving and Betty Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University, noted that this finding doesn’t necessarily mean humans are more upset by animal rather than human abuse. Instead, the findings suggest a much more complex situation in terms of the age and species of victims, with age being the more decisive factor. The reality that adult human victims get less empathy than do child, puppy and adult dogs reveals that full-grown dogs are thought of as dependent and defenseless just like their younger dog mates and kid humans.

Levin and colleague Arnold Arluke, a sociology professor at Northeastern University, looked at the opinions of 240 people, the majority of whom were white and between the ages of 18-25. According to the researchers, study participants randomly got one of four fake news stories about the abuse of a one-year-old child, an adult, a puppy, or a 6-year-old dog. The stories were the same except for the victim. The researchers asked the participants to rate their feelings of empathy towards the victim in the story they were given.

“We were surprised by the interaction of age and species,” Levin noted. “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 researchers discovered that the variation in empathy for children compared to puppies was statistically non-significant.

Defending his decision to examine the opinions of 240 college students at Northeastern University, Levin noted that is is a fairly common practice to utilize homogenous samples for studies such as this one. Homogenous samples are often used to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship rather than to generalize a sizable population, according to Levin.

Levin believes that the results would also be similar for cats and people.

Do you think the results would also be similar for most types of animals and people? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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The researchers discovered that the variation in empathy for children compared to puppies was statistically non-significant.

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