People have more empathy for pup­pies, full grown dogs and human chil­dren who are bat­tered than they do for bat­tered adult humans, U.S. researchers say.

Study co-​​authors Jack Levin and Arnold Arluke, pro­fes­sors at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, ques­tioned 240 men and women, most of whom were white and ages 18–25, at a large north­eastern uni­ver­sity. Par­tic­i­pants ran­domly received one of four fic­tional news arti­cles about the beating of a 1-​​year-​​old child, an adult in his 30s, a puppy, or a 6-​​year-​​old dog.

The sto­ries were iden­tical except for the victim’s iden­tify. After reading their story, respon­dents were asked to rate their feel­ings of empathy towards the victim.

Con­trary to pop­ular thinking, we are not nec­es­sarily more dis­turbed by animal rather than human suf­fering,” Levin said in a statement.

Our results indi­cate a much more com­plex sit­u­a­tion with respect to the age and species of vic­tims, with age being the more impor­tant com­po­nent. The fact that adult human crime vic­tims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full grown dog vic­tims sug­gests adult dogs are regarded as depen­dent and vul­ner­able not unlike their younger canine coun­ter­parts and kids.”

Age seems to trump species, when it comes to elic­iting empathy, Levin said.

 

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