Surely you know someone who empathizes with their dogs or cats more than they do with other humans, but what’s the cause of this puzzling paradox? Researchers from Northeastern University wanted to dig deeper into the reasons behind this phenomenon and found that some people appreciate and feel more compassion for dogs than for other human beings. This is especially true in circumstances of abuse.
investigated a bit more about what these researchers had to say about the matter. We’ll share this with you so you can understand the love you feel for your pet.
What did the study look like?
The study, which was published in the Society and Animals journal, was conducted by researchers Jack Levin and Arnold Arluke. They wanted to understand why some people care more about dogs than they do other humans. The experiment focused on testing whether people were more distressed by animal abuse or by that of another person.
According to a theory, the age of a victim would have a major influence on the decision of the participants of the study. However, examiners were surprised to discover that the species was also a determining factor for the reaction to abuse.
The method they used
To understand this phenomenon, 240 students were asked to manifest their level of empathy during unusual situations like an adult or child being harshly beaten with a baseball bat or a puppy or adult dog also being abused. These scenarios were “reported” in false news. Those who read the stories of the child, the puppy, and the adult dog exhibited more anguish and compassion than those who read just the one about the adult.
Why people appreciate their pets more
The authors of the study point out that humans tend to be more disturbed about animals suffering than about human pain. The reaction only changes when the victim of the abuse is a child. This may be because many people consider dogs to be vulnerable no matter their age, whereas adult humans are believed to have the capacity to protect and defend themselves. It may also be because people see dogs as babies or members of their family.
The study found that the age of the victim is a crucial factor for the reaction of people seeing humans being abused, but not for dogs or animals being mistreated. It also revealed that humans are more prone to show empathy if the victims aren’t able to defend themselves.
However, although many people have a close relationship with their pets and claim to have a more profound connection with them than other humans, it can’t be determined if distress will always be the reaction toward animal victims. Opinions about these creatures vary from person to person and in turn, the results may show many contradictions.
What do you think about this study? If you had to make a choice, who would you save, a person or an animal? Write your answer in the comments!