Humans Have More Empathy For Dogs Than They Do For Other Humans

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really sad puppy

A new study confirms that humans love dogs more than they love their fellow humans. According to science, it’s because people see dogs as helpless.

According to two new studies, we’re more likely to empathize with struggling dogs than with struggling people.  Medical research charity Harrison’s Fund conducted an experiment two years ago to test whether people were more likely to donate money to help dogs or humans, and they concluded it’s the former.

This idea was conjured up and backed up by another recent study into human-dog empathy, which concluded that we get more upset by stories of dogs being beaten up or hurt than humans going through the exact same treatment.

The researchers’ experiment was actually quite simple. They printed two advertisements, both of which posed the question: “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?” The only difference between the ads was the picture. One featured Harrison as a little boy, the other featured Harrison as a dog. And it was Harrison the dog who received the most donations.

This in no way is to say the empathy for animals is a bad thing. But what about our fellow human beings? A second study backed up what the Harrison Fund discovered.

This time, researchers Professor Jack Levin and Professor Arnold Arluke, from Northeastern University in Boston, gave 240 participants one of four fake newspaper reports. The articles described an attack “with a baseball bat by an unknown assailant.” It went on: “Arriving on the scene a few minutes after the attack, a police officer found the victim with one broken leg, multiple lacerations, and unconscious.”

But in each version, much like the Harrison Fund’s experiment, the victim in each image was different. This time, there were four different victims. It was either a one-year-old infant, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy or a six-year-old adult dog. The report, published in the journal Society & Animals, reveals that participants were asked to describe their emotions using standard questions to measure empathy.

The participants who’d read a story about a child, dog, or puppy measured similar levels of empathy, but the human adult provoked less of a response, The Times reports. “Respondents were significantly less distressed when adult humans were victimised, in comparison with human babies, puppies, and adult dogs. Only relative to the infant victim did the adult dog receive lower scores of empathy,” the researchers said.

Researchers say that this shows that humans think of dogs as family members. “Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies’, or family members alongside human children,” they wrote. It could also mean that a human will express more empathy if they feel the victim is more helpless and unable to care for themselves.

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  • Todd Burgess

    If so many “people” didn’t act like dicks, maybe there’d be more empathy.
    You will NEVER get screwed over by a dog. E.V.E.R. It is not in their capacity. On the other hand, the inability to trust a human’s behavior, even from a dog’s perspective, is always one of cautious reluctance until said trust is built. Dogs know that people will do them harm. Nearly every species of the Earth has initial fear and loathing of human encounters, because they instinctively know we each have the capacity to be dicks.

    • Laurence Almand

      True. There is no such thing as an evil animal, since animals are ruled by instinct. Humans are the only animal that knows when it is doing evil – and then goes ahead and does it.
      Human beings do two things: breed and destroy. Only 1% of all people have ever done anything good or worthwhile.
      If all the people in the world were eliminated and the world given back to the animals, perhaps it would be a good thing.

      • Amanda Ham

        But in the first experiment the human is a six year old…. do six year olds do “evil” and if they do are they aware of it? I would say no.

        • Cynical Old Bastard

          I suppose that depends on how you define the fluid concept of evil.

    • Freespirit

      I agree and I go one step further to include Children who are also given more empathy and sympathy simply , because , like dogs they are basically innocent of anticipating or providing deliberate EVIL

      Their innocence from being PSYCHOPATHIC makes them TRUE VICTIMS and incapable of doing to adult humans, what adult humans can do to them

      THAT Empathy is the GREATNESS about mankind

    • Officer1984

      Are you kidding me? “You will NEVER get screwed over by a dog.” Just look at how many “family dogs” have mauled an innocent child to death. I wouldn’t hesitate for a split second to put down some dog if I witnessed it mauling someone especially a child or an adult even if that person is a dick. While I love animals, I still value human life more than animals. I think it’s quite sad how many people value animal life over their fellow humans life since not everyone out there is an asshole and will betray you.

      • Jaguar57

        You are exactly right…I’m glad to see someone on here has their head on straight !!!

        • wh0u

          Glad to see more of us who are still trying to love one another, hope to see you around more often.

      • wh0u

        See how many upvotes these comments get that hate humanity? Let that be a representation of the overall feelings of the people in the world today… Things have changed so drastically in such a short period of time.

      • jimmy joe

        Perhaps, but ALL GOVT pigs will, that is why NOBODY trusts pigs, of all kinds!!

  • Simon says

    Most dogs are psycho-socially superior to all human adults

  • darkhorse

    animals vibrate on a higher spiritual level than most humans…

    • gato felix

      Damn I like that!!

  • frankw

    Dogs are nicer people.

    • Jaguar57

      Dogs are not equal to humans and I’d rather help starving children than starving dogs….humans come first…animals 2nd…..

  • Cynical Old Bastard

    “According to science, it’s because people see dogs as helpless.”

    LMAO. They just ain’t run into the right pack of dogs, then. Hardly helpless.

    The real reason we like dogs better than people is because people are assholes. Doesn’t take a scientific study to figure that out.

    • Cracker122049

      Valid Point!

      • Cynical Old Bastard

        Maybe those little yappers are helpless, but I’m betting that if you put a pack of fifty or so Chihuahuas together and got ’em hunting….

        Enter the Chihuahuanator!

        I’m claiming that one, SciFi channel! If I hear of a movie with that name (or any derivatives thereof) somebody is gonna pay me!

  • Mike

    That would be because dogs don’t lie to you, they don’t betray you, they don’t use you, and the list goes on.

  • wh0u

    Judging by the comments, the study is pretty accurate. With these attitudes, no wonder this country is falling apart.

  • wh0u

    Just so you know people, God places us higher than animals, it’s about time you do the same.

    • If God didn’t hide more than most animals do, it would be more obvious that he existed.

      • wh0u

        He is always there, you just aren’t looking for Him.

        • darkhorse

          and you know this…how??

        • If he is truly omnipresent, he is always everywhere, but being everywhere but non-respondent is like being nowhere.

          • wh0u

            Yes, that’s how magnificent He is and the power of free will is. To you He will remain hidden as long as you desire, while He makes miracles for the people who love Him.

        • whooou

          He? You seem to suffer from the big daddy father in the sky lie. The big all loving daddy that will send you to his dungeon to be tortured for ever and ever. No, your god is an assholee, a dictator, a sadist. Creation is beautiful, your festering diseased and dysfunctional religion is a lie.
          Sheeple, don’t you have some heathens to burn at the stake?

          • wh0u

            Sounds awfully familiar, did satan tell you to write that?

      • darkhorse


      • Jaguar57

        Really? Just look how beautiful the Earth is and how it supplies us with food, water, air to breath…look at the sun, moon, stars, galaxies etc. I think God is demonstrating loud and clear !!!

    • darkhorse

      did God tell you that?

      • TickTock

        God told me that you’re in for an asskicking for blaming the woes of the entire world on the jews.

        • darkhorse

          did I hit a nerve??

        • gato felix

          What? hold on, so are you saying that God is going to come defend a “people” that his son Jesus called the Synagogue of Satan? i’m confused!

          • wh0u

            Not all Jews are bad, more and more of them are finally accepting Jesus. This is a little more complex than you thought.

  • I think it is more likely that they think of them as innocent rather than helpless, since animals lack the ability to display mens rea.

    • Laurence Almand

      They also lack humans ability to plan and execute evil schemes.

  • Laurence Almand

    Also, dogs don’t know how to lie. And they are not two-faced. Human beings are the only animal that deliberately engages in evil behavior. How many times have you been lied to or betrayed by a dog?
    My dog Charly is more loyal, affectionate, and devoted than any human I have ever met.

  • gato felix

    Have more empathy for dogs than for humans? Bahahahaha well that’s a no-brainer!

  • Dave Albers

    I agree with Todd. Have you interacted with people today??? They are selfish, self-important, egotistical dicks. They don’t care about anybody but themselves. Dogs for the most part, just want to please. They are awsome.

    • Amanda Ham

      dogs for the most part really just want food.

      • gato felix

        And a scratch behind there ears….like my dog does!

      • phicrappazappa

        And in my home I am the God Of Food. To my dog and cats I am Master Phillip DeBoles. And I do.

  • Jim

    A pretty good study, and.for the most part it is right on the mark.

  • Bill v

    People are lazy, stupid and irresponsible, on a good day.
    People are selfish and evil, on a bad day.
    Basically…people suck. Fix your own life, not my job

  • John C Carleton

    Thats because a good dog is worth more to the world than several billion, me first, backstabbing, evil enabling, lying, humans.

  • D.Moore

    Same with the innocent children, I have much more empathy for the innocent, defenseless than grown idiots

  • tscull

    Ya, but the trouble is that the image was of a white boy. Had it been an image of a black kid, or of a girl, or better yet, a non-white girl, then all bets are off.

  • Phil_Ossifer

    “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain.

    • wh0u

      Purchase an island and live with as many dogs as you like, make sure not to invite a single human along with you. Enjoy your paradise.

  • Officer1984

    So with your logic, dogs kill people less often than people kill people, so a dogs life is more important? I suppose if one of your neighbors house was on fire and you knew that a child and the family pet were inside still, you would rather save the pet. I’m sorry, but I love my neighbor more than my neighbors dog or cat.