Your dog is drowning on one side of the lake and your friend on the other. You can save only one.
Who do you save?
A study from the Northeastern University and the University of Colorado shows that most people would save the dog. The research was conducted to find why people had more reactions of outrage in the reports of animal abuse and neglect than when similar things happened to humans.
People felt more empathy for the dogs.
With 256 students participating in the research, they found that they had different levels of empathy for a heinously beaten adult, a beaten child and a beaten puppy. “We also found more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans. Age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims.” They clarified.
Similarly, they also spoke of a research conducted by a British charity which ran a fundraising for two similar versions of the same cause.
In the research, “Both contained text that read, ‘Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?’ One version featured a picture of the real Harrison Smith, an eight-year-old boy diagnosed with Duchenne (Muscular Dystrophy). The other featured a stock photo of a dog.
The ad was featured on MSN’S United Kingdom website. In the end, the dog attracted had twice many clicks than the other, 230 against 111.
The study then concluded, “It may be that many people appraise dogs as vulnerable, regardless of their age, when compared to adult humans. In other words, dogs, whether young or adult, are seen as possessing many of the same qualities associated with human babies; they are seen as unable to fully protect themselves, compared to adult humans.”
Justin Lioi, a psychotherapist, says, “We are more able to empathize with someone whom we deem to have little blame for their circumstances,” Lioi told. “Dogs and babies are the definition of didn’t-ask-for-this and we are more likely to rush to support them.”
Sociologist and systemic psychotherapist, Dr. Kathrine McAleese, is accustomed to clients who have or work with dogs. She said that this was a typical phenomenon. “People who fit this study’s outcomes will often view animals as innocents and humans as not having the same purity. When I ask them why they will spend money on their dog’s health, fitness, nutrition, yet not on themselves, the overwhelming answer I get is ‘because my dog deserves it.”
Many dog trainers have said that they are more patient and empathetic when it comes to training the dog than training humans. Why? The dog can’t speak up for itself, so they are the dog’s advocate,” she said.
Russell Hartstein, certified behaviorist and animal trainer, wasn’t surprised either. “Dogs provide unconditional love and many times people form stronger bonds with their pet than with another human.” he said.
He even said that some pet parents take care of their pets like their own children. “From going to school for behavior and training, health, nutrition, wellness, enrichment and play, people from very close intimate bonds with their best friends.”