Here’s a bit of news animal lovers will probably just go “Duuh!” at: New research by the charity Harrison’s Fund found that people are more likely to help dogs than their fellow human beings, because it pretty much means we’re more inclined to help creatures more helpless than ourselves.
The Independent reported that researchers came to the conclusion after holding several tests.
The first was a printed advertisement that posed the question “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?” with one set of ads depicting Harrison as a little boy, and another having Harrison shown as a dog.
And it was Harrison the dog who received the most donations.
The second set was conducted after researchers followed up on a survey that showed humans get more upset by reports or stories of dogs getting beat up or hurt than humans going through the same.
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 by an unknown assailant with a baseball bat.
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, the victim was different – 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 research found that participants who read the story about a child, dog or puppy getting hurt measured similar levels of empathy, but the human adult provoked less of a response.
“Respondents were significantly less distressed when adult humans were victimized, in comparison with human babies, puppies and adult dogs. Only relative to the infant victim did the adult dog receive lower scores of empathy,” researchers noted.
They concluded that many people consider dogs as equal to human members of their family.
“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies’, or family members alongside human children,” they wrote.
Results from the study also led researchers to suggest that we’re more likely to feel empathy for a victim if we consider them to be helpless and unable to look after themselves.