What if a human and a dog stood side-by-side and both needed help, but you could only choose one. It wouldn’t be an easy decision, would it? Some studies reveal when it comes to feeling empathy, many people pick pooches over other people. Does that surprise you?
Sociologists and anthropologists from Northeastern University and the University of Colorado pondered why, when reports of animals in need make headlines, the outrage and response level is sometimes higher than when tragedies impact humans.
The researchers asked 256 college students to read a fictitious news report, and reveal their levels of empathy for a brutally beaten adult or child versus an adult dog or puppy.
The results: The undergrads felt more empathy toward the dogs than the adult human. The study says, “We also found more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans. Age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims.”
The study also mentions a British charity which also conducted its own dog-versus-person empathy experiment. It ran a fundraising campaign featuring two versions of the same ad.