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.


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