Col­lege stu­dents have more empathy for bat­tered dogs than they do for bat­tered human adults, according to a recent study. Pup­pies and human chil­dren, mean­while, evoke equal levels of empathy.

In a study of 240 stu­dents, most of whom were white and between the ages of 18 and 25, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity soci­ology pro­fes­sors Jack Levin and Arnold Arluke pre­sented each par­tic­i­pant with one of four fic­tional news arti­cles about a beating.

The arti­cles were iden­tical, save one detail: the descrip­tion of the victim. The four fic­ti­tious vic­tims included a one-​​year-​​old child, an adult in his thir­ties, a puppy and a six-​​year-​​old dog.

The par­tic­i­pants rated their feel­ings of empathy after reading the arti­cles. The dif­fer­ence between the level of empathy for the one-​​year-​​old child and the puppy were minis­cule. The six-​​year-​​old dog evoked more empathy than the 30-​​something man.

We were sur­prised by the inter­ac­tion of age and species,” Levin said. “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.”

Read the article at CBS News →