People have more empathy for abused puppies and dogs than they do for adult humans who have been abused, a new study suggests.
However, empathy for abused children was about the same as that for puppies and dogs, the study found.
Researchers surveyed 240 college students and asked them to read one of four versions of a fictional news article about a brutal beating. The wording in articles was the same, except for the identity of the victim, which was either: an infant, an adult in his 30s, a puppy or a 6-year old dog. Participants then rated their level of empathy for the victim.
Participants had higher levels of empathy for the abused child, puppy and dog than they did for the abused adult, the study found.
The researchers had hypothesized that younger victims would receive more empathy, regardless of species. Instead, they found “Age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims,” the researchers wrote in their study abstract, which will be presented this week at the American Sociological Association meeting in New York.
“The fact that adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full-grown dog victims suggests that adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable, not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids,” study researcher Jack Levin, a sociology and criminology professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said in a statement.