London, Nov 3: People do love dogs more than fellow human beings, say scientists who have found that individuals are more distressed by reports of pooches being beaten up than they are by the same reports about adult humans.
Researchers from Harrison’s Fund, a UK-based medical research charity, conducted the experiment. They printed two adverts, which asked: “Would you give 5 pounds to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?”
However, in one of the adverts Harrison was a human, and in the other it was a dog. Researchers found that Harrison the dog got significantly more clicks than Harrison the human. In another study, conducted by researchers from the Northeastern University in the US, 240 students were presented with a fake newspaper clipping.
It described police reports about an attack “with a baseball bat by an unknown assailant”. However the victim was changed for different people. It was either a one-year-old infant, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy or a six-year-old adult dog. Students described their emotions, using a standard set of questions designed to produce a measure of empathy, ‘The Times’ reported.
The study, published in the journal Society and Animals, found that people registered similar levels of empathy for the child, the dog or the puppy. However, the respondents were less distressed when adult humans were victimised.
The research showed that people considered dogs as equivalent members of their family, and feelings of empathy are related to the perceived helplessness of the victim.
One reason why adults attacked by baseball bats might elicit less sympathy is that we tend to partially blame the victim, researchers said.