People have more empathy for battered dogs than human adult, but not child, victims

Posted By News On August 10, 2013 - 4:30am

NEW YORK CITY -- People have more empathy for battered puppies and full grown dogs than they do for some humans -- adults, but not children, finds new research to be presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

"Contrary to popular thinking, we are not necessarily more disturbed by animal rather than human suffering," said Jack Levin, the Irving and Betty Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University. "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 that adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids."

In their study, Levin and co-author Arnold Arluke, a sociology professor at Northeastern University, considered the opinions of 240 men and women, most of whom were white and between the ages of 18-25, at a large northeastern university. Participants randomly received one of four fictional news articles about the beating of a one-year-old child, an adult in his thirties, 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.

"We were surprised by the interaction of age and species," Levin said. "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."

Interestingly, the researchers found that the difference in empathy for children versus puppies was statistically non-significant.

As for considering the opinions of 240 college students, Levin said it is common practice to use homogenous samples for studies such as his that center around an experiment. "Unlike survey research, experiments usually employ a homogenous sample in order to establish a cause and effect relationship rather than to generalize a large population," Levin said. "However, there is really no reason to believe that our results would differ very much nationally, particularly among college students."

While the study focused on dogs and humans, Levin thinks the findings would be similar for cats and people as well. "Dogs and cats are family pets," he said. "These are animals to which many individuals attribute human characteristics."

We are right to love children or animals and to wish to help them but to feel differently about our peers. Our peers may be necessary but are competitors rivals and threats also. And if we do NOT largely attribute what occurs to grown humans to their own choices, hence deserving not much sympathy, then we have no way for our society to function.

Further, animals and children: (1) actually are loyal, actually appreciate care and tend to love the caregiver, and actually are likely to sacrifice themselves for us - none of which is true of grown humans.

Finally, animals and children are potentially useful, not so much to grown people in general, but to us in particular.

The only common reasons for helping other grown humans are (1) when they are our comrades and proven allies in life and (2) when doing so increases our sense of self-satisfaction or prestige.

Sometimes I give money to the ASPCA, but never to feed the pagan babies.

They should have included adult Down's Syndrome individuals, and older people with Alzheimer's, in the study. It's not so much age that is important, as it is innocence and helplessness.

Two animals are drowning. One is a puppy and the other is a 1)Liberal 2) Progressive; 3) Nazi; 4) Fascist or 5) Communist.

The puppy will be re-united with its mother.

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