A  A  A   Print
Dogs May Elicit More Empathy Than Some People

Dogs May Elicit More Empathy Than Some People

SATURDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- People may feel more empathy for dogs than for some of their fellow humans, a new study finds.

When it comes to victims of violence, people may be less disturbed by the suffering of human adults, who are considered capable of taking care of themselves, the study suggests. Meanwhile, children, puppies and full-grown dogs are perceived as dependent and vulnerable.

The study involved 240 men and women. Most of the participants were white college students between 18 and 25 years old.

In conducting the research, Jack Levin, a distinguished professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, and study co-author Arnold Arluke, a sociology professor at the school, randomly gave one of four fictional news stories to each participant.

The scenarios involved the beating of a 1-year-old baby, an adult in his 30s, a puppy or a 6-year-old dog. After reading the story, the participants rated how much empathy they had for the victim of the attack.

More empathy was shown for the child, the puppy and the adult dog than the adult human, the study revealed. Surprisingly, the participants had about the same amount of empathy for the child as they did for the puppy.

The study is scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York City.

"We were surprised by the interaction of age and species," Levin said in an association news release. "Age seems to trump species when it comes to eliciting empathy."

The authors noted the findings would likely be similar if the study had involved cats instead of dogs. As family pets, they said, dogs and cats often are assigned human characteristics.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has more about empathy.

SOURCE: American Sociological Association, news release, Aug. 10, 2013

 
Today's Interactive Tools

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.