Humans empathize more with needy dogs than needy people, studies find

A needy dog sparks more empathy in humans than an needy human, according to recent British studies. Unless, that is, the human is a baby--then the dogs come in second.
By Kathy Fey | Nov 03, 2017
We humans love dogs so much that we'll help a suffering dog sooner than we will a suffering human, according to two major studies. The studies, which the Times of London reported Tuesday, both found that an ad seeking donations for a person in need will lose out to one raising funds for a dog.

The medical research charity Harrison's Fund carried out the first study two years ago. It printed two fake ads and posted them to an online news site. Both ads asked the same question: "Would you give 5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?"

There was only one difference: Harrison was a human adult in one ad and a dog in the other. And the researchers found that the dog ad got significantly more clicks and more contributions

A human baby can trump a dog, however, according to the second study. Northwestern University researchers compiled four fake news stories about victims of a baseball-bat attack. The victim was a puppy in one story, an adult dog in the second, a human infant in the third, and an adult human in the fourth.

 

The researchers had 240 university students read each story and questioned the students after each reading to gauge their empathy. The adult human finished dead-last, but the baby came in first.

"Respondents were significantly less distressed when adult humans were victimized, in comparison with human babies, puppies and adult dogs," the researchers said in a statement. "Only relative to the infant victim did the adult dog receive lower scores of empathy."

 

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