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.

Read the article at Boston Magazine →