Researchers have found that people may indeed like dogs more than they like other people.
Why do we like dogs more than other people? Believe it or not, cuteness may not be a factor.
Saying that we like our pet dog more than other humans may be a lame little joke we’re fond of telling, but there may be some truth to the jest after all. When it comes to empathy, you’d think that we would have more for members of our own species. After all, these individuals look like us, and to a certain extent, we can imagine how they’d feel in certain situations. However, a new study has found that we may actually be more empathetic toward dogs and babies than toward grown people like ourselves.
Babies can tug on our heartstrings just as much as dogs can.
Imagine an adult dog, a puppy, an adult person, and a human baby. Now, imagine that they’re all separately in trouble. Which of these individuals would you empathize with the most?
This was a question that researchers wanted answers to. Researchers had a total of 240 participants, all of whom were students, look at fake reports of an attack either on a dog or on a person. The fake report told the participants about how an unknown assailant attacked a victim. The report would go on to say that the attacker left the victim unconscious and suffering from a broken leg and multiple lacerations.
All the participants received a report telling them about the same events, but with one big difference. The victim varied among the versions of the report the participants received. In the different versions of the reports, the victim would be a puppy, a six-year-old dog, a one-year-old baby, or a 30-year-old human adult. After reading the report, the participants were asked questions that can help researchers gauge their level of empathy toward the victim.
The researchers expected that the empathy of the participants may be based on the ages and vulnerability of the “victims” in the report. However, the results of the experiment proved their expectations wrong.
What does it mean if we can empathize more with dogs and puppies than with other people?
According to the findings, the empathy of the participants for the puppy, the dog, and the human baby were generally at par with each other. The participants showed the least empathy for the adult person. The puppy was found to have received the most empathy, then the human baby, then the adult dog. Participants were less empathetic toward the dog only when compared to the human baby.
“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies’, or family members alongside human children,” the researchers wrote. This, therefore, may explain why the participants had more empathy for dogs and babies than for adult people. The results also suggest that we are likely to feel more empathy for a victim if we perceive them to be helpless.
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