BOSTON (CBS Connecticut) – Researchers have learned that college students are more empathetic toward dogs who have been abused than they are toward human adults who have suffered comparable abuse.
CBS News reports that the team involved in the study, including sociology professors Arnold Arluke and Jack Levin from Northeastern University in Boston, found that matriculating students were likely to feel the same way about human children suffering abuse as they were about battered dogs.
A reported 240 mostly white college students between 18 and 25 years of age took part in the study, which involved the reading of different stories, each telling a tale of abuse.
The only detail changed from story to story, CBS News learned, was the victim. The stories either presented the abuse of a puppy, a 6-year-old dog, a 1-year-old child, or an adult in his 30s.
After reading the story, students were asked to rate their feelings of empathy for the abused character. Results indicated that participants were noticeably more empathetic toward the 6-year-old dog than they were the man in his 30s.
“We were surprised by the interaction of age and species,” Levin was quoted as saying. “Age seems to trump species, when it comes to eliciting empathy.”
Levin noted, “In addition, it appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves while full-grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies.”
In the study, whose findings were presented at a meeting of the American Sociological Association held last week, researchers also observed that there was almost no difference between levels of empathy for the puppy and the 1-year-old child.