There’s a reason peoples’ hearts melt when they see big, brown puppy dog eyes.
According to a study conducted by Northeastern University sociology professors Jack Levin and Arnold Arluke, people feel more empathy towards a hurt, or battered dog, than they do for an adult human. The study also showed that people have the same amount of empathy for a puppy—compared to an older dog—as they do for an infant in cases where harm may have been inflicted. “We kind of hypothesized that age would make a big difference, and it did,” said Levin.
To complete their findings, which were presented this month at the meeting of the American Sociological Association, in New York City, Levin and Arluke asked 240 students from Northeastern University to read four separate news articles and then answer a series of questions about how each article made them feel on a seven-point scale.
Each article, all of which were fictitious, contained the same information, however, the person, or animal harmed in the story varied. In one story, people read about a battered puppy, and in another, a battered six-year-old dog. Then, in the other two articles they read about an infant and adult harmed under similar circumstances.