Some People Have More Empathy For Victims Who Are Dogs Than For Adult Humans, According To A Study
Let us ask you a question: When a human dies in a movie, do you cry? Perhaps. What about when a dog dies? …You’re a ball of tears, aren’t you?
If you’re now wondering what a terrible person you are for being more empathetic toward dogs than humans, first of all, you’re not a terrible person. You’re also not alone. In fact, according to a new study, it turns out that the feeling is mutual: the majority of us actually feel worse when we witness a dog in a brutal situation than if we were to witness a human in the same one.
The study, published in the journal Society & Animals, asked 256 undergraduates at a major northeastern university to mark down how empathetic they felt for both a human adult or child that was brutally beaten, as well as an adult dog or puppy that was brutally beaten. And the results offered a lot of thoughts.
First off, it turns out that age was a pretty important factor in how empathetic people felt. “We hypothesized that the vulnerability of victims—determined by their age and not species—would determine participants’ levels of distress and concern for them,” the researchers state. “The main effect for age but not for species was significant.”
That said, victims who are adult humans came in last place in the study for the scenario of empathy. “We found more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans,” the researchers noted.
That means we feel worse for all types of dogs—no matter their age—in brutal situations than we do for adult humans. Hey, at least we still feel empathetic toward human children! “Age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims,” the researchers concluded.
As a side note, it turns out that female participants displayed more empathy as whole than men who participated, no matter who the victim was. “Female participants were significantly more empathic toward all victims than were their male counterparts,” the study states.
So what’s the reason humans feel so bad for dogs over their own species? Experts say the answer is simple.
“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,” study researcher Jack Levin, a sociology and criminology professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said in a statement. “It appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves, while full-grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies.”
This would also make sense why children scored so high on the list as well. Plus, Levin says that he believes results would likely be similar for other animals such as cats— or “animals to which many individuals attribute human characteristics,” he said.
Interesting, huh? If you asked yourself the same questions, which set of abused species do you feel more empathetic for?