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Some People Would Rather See A Human Suffer Than A Dog, Study Says

ryan.ford 22 Oct 2019

If you're like me, you can watch just about any movie as long as any dogs featured in it make it through the action just fine. The director can do just about anything to the human characters, but if the dog gets hurt, forget about it.

No thanks, it's not for me.

As it turns out, I'm pretty far from alone, according to science.

It's no secret that humans are increasingly including their dogs and cats as members of the family, not just mere "pets."

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And that attachment has some incredible emotional effects.

According to a study out of Northeastern University, we identify so strongly with our pooches that we'd rather see our fellow humans be harmed and suffer than see a dog suffer.

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Empathy is no small thing, but the fact that it extends so strongly between humans and dogs might be a surprise.

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In the study, which was published in the journal Society and Animals, researchers asked 256 people to react to four different fake newspaper stories.

Each story featured a violent scenario involving a baseball bat and an "unknown assailant," with four different victims: a one-year-old baby, a 30-year-old human, a puppy, and a 6-year-old dog.

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So, which victim did the participants feel the most empathy for? The puppy.

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Yes, the human infant ranked second to the puppy, followed by the older dog. The adult human came in last place.

What surprised the researchers most was that the big factor in how the participants reacted wasn't the species, but the age.

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Basically, the big thing was that adult humans were considered capable of defending themselves, whereas all the other victims in the scenarios were more vulnerable.

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"We were surprised by the interaction of age and species," said the study's author, Jack Levin. "Age seems to trump species when it comes to eliciting empathy. In addition, it appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves, while full-grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies."

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Of course, it probably wasn't much of a surprise to dog owners out there.

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As the study's authors noted, the feelings were strong where participants could identify with their own pets, saying "Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as 'fur babies,' or family members alongside human children."

h/t Psychology Today

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