What’s harder to watch: An adult human kicking a puppy or an adult human kicking another adult human? Sci­ence says: the puppy. A new study has found abused dogs — both pup­pies and adults — elicit more sym­pathy than abused adult humans.

Abused human kids, how­ever, are equally sym­pa­thetic as abused dogs, Live­Science reports.

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,” says one of the study’s researchers.

The researchers at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity in Boston showed 240 stu­dents one of four news arti­cles about a beating — each article was the same except for the victim, which was var­i­ously an infant, a puppy, a man in his thir­ties, or a 6-​​year-​​old dog.

We were sur­prised by the inter­ac­tion of age and species,” says a co-​​author of the study, per Sci­ence Daily. “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 USA Today →