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This research examines whether people are more emotionally disturbed by reports of non-human animal than human suffering or abuse. Two hundred and fifty-six undergraduates at a major northeastern university were asked to indicate their degree of empathy for a brutally beaten human adult or child versus an adult dog or puppy, as described in a fictitious news report. We hypothesized that the vulnerability of victims—determined by their age and not species—would determine participants' levels of distress and concern for them. The main effect for age but not for species was significant. 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. In addition, female participants were significantly more empathic toward all victims than were their male counterparts.
©   , , | ./-
    () -
Are People More Disturbed by Dog or Human
Inluence of Victim’s Species and Age
Jack Levin
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University, Boston,
Arnold Arluke
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University, Boston,
Leslie Irvine
Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
This research examines whether people are more emotionally disturbed by reports of
non-human animal than human sufering or abuse. Two hundred and fty-six under-
graduates at a major northeastern university were asked to indicate their degree of
empathy for a brutally beaten human adult or child versus an adult dog or puppy,
as described in a ctitious news report. We hypothesized that the vulnerability of
victims—determined by their age and not species—would determine participants’
levels of distress and concern for them. The main efect for age but not for species was
signicant. We also found more empathy for victims who are human children, pup-
pies, and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans. Age makes a difer-
ence for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims. In addition, female
participants were signicantly more empathic toward all victims than were their male
empathy – emotional distress – vulnerability – sufering – victims – dogs – age
, ,  
    () -
In the popular perception, media coverage of the abuse of non-human animals
appears to evoke greater public outrage than reports of comparable mistreat-
ment of human victims. When reports of non-human victims reach the media,
the attention they receive can seem to overshadow concern for the traumas
and tragedies that befall humans. For example, in February 2015, Harrison’s
Fund, a British charity that supports research for Duchenne muscular dystro-
phy, ran a fundraising campaign featuring two versions of the same ad. Both
contained text that read, “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, pain-
ful death?” One version featured a picture of the real Harrison Smith, an eight-
year-old boy diagnosed with Duchenne. The other featured a stock photo of a
dog. When the ads ran on s United Kingdom website with links to donate
to the charity, the one depicting the dog attracted twice as many clicks as the
one with the boy (230, compared to 111) (Lambert, 2015).
In addition, in 2014, after a pit bull dog mauled a four-year-old boy in
Phoenix, Arizona, leaving him with injuries requiring years of reconstructive
surgery, a social media campaign rallied a legal team and nancial support to
save the dog from euthanasia. Within a few weeks, a Facebook page dedicated
to Mickey the dog had more than 40,000 “likes,” while the page for the support
of the boy had barely 500 (Tang & Billeaud, 2014). Critics might point out that
Facebook “likes” depend on who shared the story and how, but this only proves
the point. Advocates for the dog could quickly leverage social media to reach a
wide audience of like-minded supporters.
Despite anecdotal evidence of apparent greater concern for non-human than
human victims, it would be wrong to assume that animal victims will always
elicit a greater degree of emotional distress and sympathy than will human
victims of violence. Scholars have noted our society’s inconsistent treatment
of non-human animals and how this ambivalence translates into widespread
indiference toward, if not approval of, their harm (Arluke & Sanders, 1996;
Herzog, 2010; Plous, 1993). Some people view non-human animals as property
and treat them like objects; from this perspective, their harm would inspire
little if any concern (Vollum et al., 2004).
Even if viewed as more than mere objects, the sufering of non-human ani-
mals still may not prompt as much concern as humans made to sufer similarly.
Of course, views on non-human animals vary widely and are rife with contradic-
tions (Arluke & Sanders, 1996). Studies reveal that numerous factors inuence
people’s attitudes (Batt, 2009; Kellert, 1996; Plous, 1993). Anthropomorphized
species, including but not limited to those commonly kept as companions,
elicit greater concern than do other species. Phylogenetic similarity to hu-
mans; perceived intelligence; domestication; and neoteny, or “cuteness,” also
inuence people’s views. When it comes to the abuse of non-human animals
        ?
    () -
versus children, however, the former lags far behind the latter in terms of the
willingness of society to criminalize the violence, intervene to stop it, and pro-
vide resources to help the victims.
Social science research has yielded mixed results in studies of empathy felt
for non-human versus human victims. Much of the inconclusiveness likely
stems from difering perspectives on the nature of empathy. Dened as “a vi-
carious emotional response to another’s emotions or states” (Paul, 2000, p. 194),
some researchers depict empathy as one continuous capacity directed toward
diferent targets (Eisenberg, 1988; Serpell & Paul, 1994; Signal & Taylor, 2007;
Taylor & Signal, 2005). Under this framework, individuals who feel compas-
sion for other people feel similarly toward non-human animals, and vice versa.
Assuming that the same positive correlation holds for a lack of compassion, or
for cruelty, the idea that a continuous emotion generalizes to diferent targets
has implications for understanding a wide range of anti-social behavior, from
animal abuse to violent acts directed at other people (Ascione, 1992).
In contrast, drawing on examples of how empathy for non-human animals
does not generalize to humans, such as the Nazis (Arluke & Sax, 1992) and mili-
tant animal liberation activists (Monaghan, 1999), Paul (2000) proposed sepa-
rate empathy constructs, with one capturing people’s response to non- human
animals and another tapping a similar response involving human targets.
Paul’s (2000) research found support for the presence of two types of empathy
with some shared components, rather than a single, continuous mechanism.
Studies of human-animal interaction have also sought to locate the factors
that underlie empathy. Yet, apart from nding gender diferences, with fe-
males consistently scoring higher than males on attitudes toward non-human
animals and measures of empathy (Angantyr et al., 2011; Herzog, Betchart, &
Pittman, 1991; Matthews & Herzog, 1997; Phillips et al., 2011; Topolski et al.,
2013), these studies have been inconclusive. Because many people have close
relationships with companion animals, with some claiming to have greater
emotional connection to non-human animals than to people (Archer, 1997;
Bonas, McNicholas, & Collis, 2000), research has examined whether the re-
lationship inuences empathy. Here, too, the research ofers no denitive
conclusions. Although Paul and Serpell (1993) found an association between
companion animal ownership in childhood and concern about the welfare of
both humans and non-human animals, Paul (2000) later found a signicant
association between current or childhood ownership and empathy directed at
animals, but not at humans.
We recognize the controversy surrounding “ownership” of non-human animals; we have
used the term, as well as “owner,” where consistent with the cited literature.
, ,  
    () -
Taylor and Signal (2005) found that current companion animal ownership,
but not ownership in childhood, correlated with high scores on measures
of human-human empathy. Studies by Signal and Taylor (2006) and Meyer,
Forkman, and Paul (2014) found that ownership, regardless of life stage, had
no efect on concern for non-human animals. In a study of children, Daly and
Morton (2003) found that having companion animals did not result in signi-
cantly higher empathy. Daly et al. (2014) found that, while non-human animal
companionship alone did not make respondents more likely to empathize
with animals than humans, level of attachment to the companion animal did
signicantly mediate respondents’ emotional response on behalf of animals.
Respondents were generally more “bothered” by the victimization of a human
infant than a puppy—with the exception of dedicated companion animal
guardians, who were more upset by the puppy-abuse than any other group.
These and other studies focus on characteristics pertaining to the observ-
ers, or the person experiencing the empathy. The observer-centered approach
seeks the antecedent factors—whether related to personality, demographics,
development, psychological skills (e.g., nurturance), or lifestyle choices (e.g.,
being a vegetarian)—that might inuence empathy (see Davis, 2006; Preylo &
Arikawa, 2008). Research design may explain the mixed results. By comparing
an observer’s emotional response to a human versus an animal victim, these
studies pit species against each other (e.g., Westbury et al., 2015). Doing so may
falsely attribute greater emotional response to a victim’s species—animal or
human—when the response may be triggered by specic attributes of victims,
regardless of their species. In particular, these studies fail to examine the ef-
fect of age of victim when comparing human and animal targets. In Angantyr
et al. (2011), for example, one set of scenarios compares adult victims (a man,
woman, cat, and dog), and another compares young victims (a child, baby,
and puppy). In Daly et al. (2014), all the scenarios depict the “abuse victims” as
young: either as puppies or infants. These studies require respondents to make
choices between victims of diferent species but within the same age category.
A smaller number of studies consider age of the victim as an empathy trigger
(Lehmann et al., 2013; Prguda & Neumann, 2014). For example, one study that
incorporated age as a potential empathy trigger examined respondents’ will-
ingness to help any of three hypothetical target victims—a 6-year-old child,
an adult woman, and a 40-pound dog—portrayed as under attack by an adult
man (Laner et al., 2001). Respondents reported willingness to intervene on be-
half of any of the victims, but children received the highest mean scores on
intention to intervene. Scores for women and dogs, while lower, did not difer
signicantly. Although the study incorporated age as a potential empathy trig-
ger, it still required respondents to choose between species.
        ?
    () -
The present study examines the extent to which people’s reactions of dis-
tress to animal and human sufering stem from the perceived vulnerability of
the victim, as characterized by youth. In doing so, we include two potential
antecedents to empathy: current need, as depicted by an abuse scenario, and
vulnerability, as characterized by the victim’s youth. Although the empathic
response is considered a response to perceiving another in need, the types of
need that elicit empathy (i.e., whether someone is in current need of help or is
in a vulnerable position) deserve greater attention (Batson et al., 2005; Lishner
et al., 2011). Vulnerability can exist without current need; we can perceive an-
other as defenseless even in the absence of potential harm, and doing so would
not elicit empathy. Similarly, seeing another in need might not elicit empathy
if that other were also seen as capable of resolving the situation without help
(Midlarsky & Hannah, 1985).
Research also suggests that the empathic response arises from mechanisms
that evolved to promote the care and protection of the young (Dijker, 2010,
2014; Lishner et al., 2008; Lishner et al., 2011). From an evolutionary perspec-
tive, a “parental instinct” generalizes to extend care and concern even to non-
kin (Lorenz, 1971; McDougal, 1908). Informed by this view, and using age as an
indicator of vulnerability, we hypothesize that, when reading about a violent
act, young rather than adult victims, regardless of species, will elicit greater
Materials and Methods
All participants were undergraduate students enrolled in introductory sociol-
ogy and anthropology classes at a major northeastern university. The approxi-
mate enrollment in these classes totaled 380 students; 240 students completed
and returned the survey instrument. All participants were in the age range
18-23. One hundred and ninety-six were Caucasian, 16 Black, 19 Asian, and
nine Latino. Some 172 participants were female and 68 were male. Only those
students 18 or older were asked to participate. There were no other inclusion/
exclusion criteria.
The university’s institutional review board reviewed and approved this
In a regular classroom setting, participants were recruited by asking the stu-
dents present if they would participate in the study. It was made clear that
, ,  
    () -
student participation was completely voluntary and their acceptance or rejec-
tion to participate would not afect their standing at the university or in the
class. Before receiving the instrument, verbal informed consent was obtained
and participants were given an explanation for completing the instrument.
All data were collected during a regular class period. Both oral and written
instructions indicated that all answers were to be treated condentially, and
that participants could stop at any time, even if they had already started the
To manipulate the independent variables, consenting participants were ran-
domly given a ctitious newspaper article that described one of four vignettes
(1-year-old infant, 30-year-old adult, a puppy, or 6-year-old adult dog) that de-
tailed an attack perpetrated against the victim. The vignettes difered only by
the identication of the victim. All other conditions remained the same. For
example, our vignette for the puppy was as follows:
Please read the following article taken from the Boston Globe, October
16th, 2010: BOSTON-After a noticeable increase of attacks against residents
of certain Boston neighborhoods, Police Commissioner Davis has assigned
a larger law enforcement presence to crime “hotspots” around the City. Last
week, police investigators documented a total of 11 attacks on residents
of the South End alone. According to witnesses present, one particularly
vicious assault involved a one-year-old puppy that was beaten with a base-
ball bat by an unknown assailant. Arriving on the scene a few minutes after
the attack, a police ocer found the victim with one broken leg, multiple
lacerations, and unconscious. No arrests have been made in the case.
Dependent Variable
Participants were then asked to indicate their degree of empathic concern for
the victim in the vignette by their responses on an Emotional Response Scale
(Batson, 1987). The measure consisted of 16 emotions to which participants
responded by indicating how much they felt each toward the victim whose ac-
count they read on a series of 7-point rating scales: for example, from 1 (not at
all sympathetic) to 7 (extremely sympathetic). The list included six emotions—
sympathetic, softhearted, warm, compassionate, tender, and moved—that have
been employed in many previous studies to assess feelings of empathic con-
cern (See Batson et al., 2005, 2007).
The ratings on the 16 scales were summarized to yield a total empathic dis-
tress score ranging from 7 (little empathy) to 112 (much empathy). The internal
consistency of the overall measure was indicated by Cronbach’s Alpha = .83.
Notwithstanding its lack of explicit validity and reliability data, the Emotional
        ?
    () -
Response Scale has been employed in numerous studies and published in the
most selective journals in social psychology, as a measure of empathy and per-
sonal distress (See, for example, Batson, 1991; Batson et al., 1981; Batson et al.,
1983; Batson et al., 1986; Batson et al., 1988; Batson et al., 1989; Batson et al., 1995;
Batson et al., 1997; Batson et al., 2005; Batson et al., 2007; Fultz et al., 1986;
Lishner et al., 2011; Toi & Batson, 1982).
As a check on the efectiveness of the manipulation, participants were
asked to recall the age and species of the victim from the vignette they had
received. The nine students who gave at least one incorrect response were ex-
cluded from the study, leaving a total of 231 participants whose responses were
subjected to analysis.
Once participants read one of the ctitious newspaper articles and completed
the questionnaire, they were fully debriefed, thanked for their time, and asked
to remain in the classroom for their regularly scheduled lecture.
Data were subjected to a 2 (species of victim) × 2 (age of victim) × 2 (gender of
participant) analysis of variance in which main efects and interactions were
examined. Results indicated that the main efects for age of victim and gender
of participant, but not for species of victim, were signicant. More specically,
female participants (M = 74.94,  = 21.58) were signicantly more empathic
than their male counterparts (M = 69.28,  = 20.91), regardless of species,
F(1,224) = 4.34, p = .04, d = .28. This result is consistent with the nding of an
earlier study, in which females were found to be more distressed than males
regarding victimization generally (Angantyr et al., 2011).
Not surprisingly, participants in the present study were signicantly more
empathic when the victim was an infant or puppy (M = 78.22,  = 15.80) than
an adult person or dog (M = 65.99,  = 20.90, F(1,224) = 20.23, p = .0001, d =
.79). At the same time the interaction between age and species also yielded
signicant diferences, F(1,224) = 12.70, p = .0001, d = .61, but of an unexpected
character. Based on Tukey’s multiple comparison test, all of the age catego-
ries—infant (M = 82.76,  = 14.53), puppy (M = 75.34,  = 17.06), and adult
dog (M = 73.15,  = 22.07)—received signicantly greater empathy than did
the human adult victim (M = 62.09,  = 19.72). Only in comparison with the
infant did the adult dog receive signicantly less empathy than other victims
( = 8.85). None of the other interaction efects were signicant.
, ,  
    () -
Our results indicate that respondents were signicantly 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. These results provide partial support for the assump-
tion that people generally care more about non-human animal sufering than
human sufering. More specically, when confronted with hypothetical abuse,
individuals report more distress over non-human rather than human victim-
ization, unless a human child experiences the sufering.
There are two possible—and related—explanations for these ndings, nei-
ther of which can be conrmed in the present study. First, the higher scores for
the infant over all other victims are consistent with other research highlight-
ing the importance of similarity between respondents and victims. The “per-
ceived similarity” explanation maintains that people feel concern for others
whom they perceive as similar to themselves (Batson et al., 2005; Krebs, 1975).
Thus, species similarity could account for the preference of the infant over the
puppy and dog, as in the study by Daly et al. (2014).
Second, the higher scores for the infant and the puppy suggest the impor-
tance of vulnerability, as conveyed by youth, in evoking empathy (Dijker, 2001).
Perceived similarity alone did not evoke empathy: it did so only when combined
with vulnerability. This is consistent with research suggesting that the empath-
ic response evolved to promote the care and protection of the young (Dijker,
2010, 2014; Lishner et al., 2008; Lishner et al., 2011; Lorenz, 1971). Angantyr et al.
(2011) support this explanation. Their study found that participants expressed
the same degree of empathy for a baby as for a puppy. However, unlike the re-
search by Angantyr et al., which looked only at main efects of young members
of both species (or interactions with gender of participants), we were able to
examine the interaction between age and species.
In addition, our results suggest that respondents were similarly concerned
for adult dogs as victims. That is, only empathy toward the adult human was
signicantly lower than empathy expressed toward an infant, a puppy, or an
adult dog. 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, com-
pared to adult humans. Additional research could explore this further by ask-
ing respondents to rate the perceived vulnerability of the victims.
The vignette in which a human adult appeared did not indicate the victim’s
gender. In light of the traditional stereotype depicting men as dominant and
        ?
    () -
strong versus women as submissive and weak, it is conceivable that we would
have found greater empathy for adult humans if we had specied the female
gender of the victim. Future research might vary the gender of the human
adult target to determine whether our results apply as well to female as male
victims. In addition, examining correlations between the gender of respon-
dents and victims would test the perceived similarity explanation by assessing
the degree to which gender, along with species, inuences respondents’ iden-
tication with victims.
Indirect support for our ndings comes from studies of how people re-
gard their own companion dogs, some showing that people can consider
their dogs, whether full-grown or puppies, as children or babies. For example,
Greenebaum’s (2004) study of “Yappy Hour” at Fido’s Barkery showed that peo-
ple attending this event on a weekly basis treated their dogs like children and
regarded themselves as their dogs’ “parents.” In fact, Greenebaum’s subjects
did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as “fur babies,” or family mem-
bers alongside human children. Of course, not everyone will view dogs this
way. People who have dominionistic relationships with dogs, for instance, have
relatively low regard for their companion animals and value them primarily for
protection, compared to people having a humanistic orientation that elevates
dogs to the status of surrogate humans (Blouin, 2013).
With regard to the dog and the child being equivalent, this might also stem
from respondents’ difering perceptions of the vulnerability of the victims. As
with a “blaming the victim” situation, respondents might view adults as re-
sponsible for and capable of removing themselves from the abusive situation;
we expect the adult to walk away, as we would think we would do if in such a
situation. With a young child or a dog, respondents might see them as unable
to leave a harmful situation.
Of course, making similar attributions to both dogs and human babies also
may depend on the specic dog breed. In our study, we did not specify breed
in the vignettes. Future research might examine whether the “all dogs are ba-
bies” perception is breed-dependent by using vignettes that vary the identity
of particular breeds of dogs. Prior research ndings have been equivocal about
the public’s perception of and favorability toward diferent breeds, with some
studies suggesting that people perceive diferent breeds similarly (Perrine &
Wells, 2006), while other studies suggest diferences (Budge et al., 1996). There
might be less empathy for particular dog breeds stereotyped as highly ag-
gressive, whose owners are also pictured as violent (Twining & Arluke, 2000).
Although empathy was not directly studied, the respondents in Wright et al.’s
(2007) research found that dogs seen as unfriendly and aggressive were less
desirable and adoptable compared to dogs thought to be friendly and not
 , ,  
    () -
dangerous, suggesting that victimized breeds with the former characteristics
might elicit less empathy than the latter.
Whether people have as much empathy for other kinds of victimized com-
panion animals, such as cats or birds, let alone for wildlife, also merits inves-
tigation. While many people care about dogs (Plous, 1993), and perhaps other
kinds of companion animals, not everyone is likely to have the same degree of
empathy for dogs as, say, a squirrel, if the squirrel victim were similarly injured
in a vignette. Here, too, as with dog breeds, there is variation in how the public
regards various non-human species, heavily anthropomorphizing and perhaps
having greater empathy for some species like dolphins or whales while not
others, such as snakes (Arluke & Sanders, 1996; Ashley et al., 2007; Herzog &
Burghardt, 1988).
Experimental research has the advantage of giving investigators an oppor-
tunity to establish cause-and-efect relationships by manipulating their inde-
pendent variables rather than by merely measuring the efects of variables
post-hoc. At the same time, experiments including ours tend to have far less
external validity than other research methods, typically including for investi-
gation only a few of the many variables that might inuence a dependent vari-
able. As a result, it is usually dicult to extrapolate from the respondents in a
single experimental study to any larger and more diverse population. We stud-
ied college students, most of whom were in their late teens and early twenties
and white. Future research might seek to generalize to an older and ethnically
more diverse population. Moreover, we excluded a number of variables that
might have contributed to diferences in empathy such as whether subjects
were owners of dogs. Still, the strong internal validity of our experimental ap-
proach is a result of the random assignment of respondents to various catego-
ries of the independent variables, so that extraneous variables can be assumed
to be distributed equally throughout the treatments and therefore cannot be
held accountable for signicant diferences.
In terms of implications for policy and practice, the results of this study suggest
an avenue for cultivating humane attitudes and potentially reducing the like-
lihood of violence toward human and non-human animals. The nding that
perceived similarity, coupled with vulnerability, resulted in the highest scores
among respondents ofers persuasive evidence of the need to shift the scope
of existing practices. We suggest that by emphasizing shared vulnerability,
        ?
    () -
rather than focusing on exposure to violence and aggression, innovative pro-
grams could reshape the treatment and prevention of animal abuse.
The incorporation of vulnerability has already advanced several other elds.
For instance, in the literature on disasters, the “vulnerability paradigm” argues
that characteristics of individuals and groups inuence their ability to “antici-
pate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact” of catastrophic events
(Blaikie et al., 1994, p. 94; see also Irvine, 2010; Tierney, 2006). This perspective
focuses attention on reducing risks beforehand, and not simply responding
after an event.
Current research on medical education underscores the need for physi-
cians and nurses to develop “a sense of what it means to be a vulnerable per-
son, without necessarily focusing on illness” (Holloway & Freshwater, 2007,
p. 709; see also Bochner, 2009; Hofmaster, 2006). The process of incorporat-
ing a perspective on vulnerability into specic programs would vary widely,
and the details extend beyond the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, because
acknowledging vulnerability means acknowledging similarity as embodied be-
ings, similarly subject to harm and pain, it can have a potential impact on a
wide range of moral and legal domains related, but not limited to, interactions
between humans and non-human animals.
We would like to thank Abby Huhtala and Kaitlin Nesbitt for their competent
assistance in collecting and analyzing data for the study.
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... Furthermore, in line with previous evidence [29], our findings suggest that empathy towards dogs may prompt motivation for acquisition regardless of the dog's age. In a study which examined the interaction between victim age and species using fictitious news reports, it was found that age affected participants' degree of empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims [29]. ...
... Furthermore, in line with previous evidence [29], our findings suggest that empathy towards dogs may prompt motivation for acquisition regardless of the dog's age. In a study which examined the interaction between victim age and species using fictitious news reports, it was found that age affected participants' degree of empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims [29]. This suggests that people may consider dogs as vulnerable, whether young or adult. ...
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Understanding the factors that result in people becoming dog owners is key to developing messaging around responsible acquisition and providing appropriate support for prospective owners to ensure a strong dog–owner bond and optimise dog welfare. This qualitative study investigated factors that influence pet dog acquisition. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 142 sets of dog owners/caretakers at 23 Dogs Trust community events. Interviews focused on the motivations and influences that impacted how people acquired their dogs. Transcribed interviews and notes were thematically analysed. Two acquisition types were reported, that each accounted for half of our interviewees’ experiences: planned and unplanned. Whilst planned acquisitions involved an intentional search for a dog, unplanned acquisitions occurred following an unexpected and unsought opportunity to acquire one. Unplanned acquisitions frequently involved a participant’s family or friends, people happening upon a dog in need, or dogs received as gifts. Motivations for deciding to take the dog included emotional attachments and a desire to help a vulnerable animal. Many reported making the decision to acquire the dog without hesitation and without conducting any pre-acquisition research. These findings present valuable insights for designers of interventions promoting responsible acquisition and ownership, because there is minimal opportunity to deliver messaging with these unplanned acquisitions. Additionally, these findings may guide future research to develop more complete understandings of the acquisition process. Further studies are required to understand the prevalence of unplanned acquisitions.
... Similarly, people may perceive moral valuation of different entities (e.g., animals, humans) as involving zero-sum tradeoffs, even when such comparisons are not explicit (Rottman et al., 2021). There is uncertainty about empathy in this context because studies that have compared self-reports of state compassion across human and animal targets without pitting the two against each other have yielded mixed results (e.g., Angantyr et al., 2011;Levin et al., 2017). Thus, the lack of forced trade-offs between species might result in more empathy choice, but alternative possibilities and mixed results suggest uncertainty about what happens when empathy choices for animals and humans are not zero-sum. ...
People appear to empathize with cases of animal suffering yet to disregard such suffering when it conflicts with human needs. In three studies, we used an empathy regulation measure – the empathy selection task – to test whether people choose or avoid sharing in experiences of animals versus humans. In Study 1, when choosing between sharing experiences of animals or humans, participants preferred humans and rated sharing animal (versus human) experiences as more cognitively costly. In Studies 2a-2b, the choice to share experiences or be objective was done without a forced choice between animals and humans. When empathy opportunities for humans and animals were not contrasted against each other, participants avoided experience sharing for humans but not for animals. Manipulations of prosocial cost in these studies did not consistently moderate choice differences. Freeing people from contexts that pit empathy for animals against empathy for humans may diminish motivated disregard of animals’ experiences.
... Protecting vulnerable others or alleviating their suffering are hallmarks of compassionate behavior (Oveis et al., 2010). Levin et al. (2017) finds that perceived vulnerability of targets-such as puppies and other baby animals-arouses strong empathic responses in humans. Based on these findings, the photographic stimuli were chosen with the following in mind: the connection between human and animal needed to be emphasized by visual overlap between the subjects, suggesting a caring, devoted, and protecting attitude. ...
Consumers of meat products are generally shielded from the moral dissonance associated with the killing of livestock. Nonetheless, consumers increasingly look for ways to reduce or avoid meat in their diets due to concerns about individual health and the harmful global impacts of meat production. Campaigns that promote plant-based diets seek to facilitate such efforts by appealing to consumers' compassion, but the effects of such moral appeals on immediate food choice have not been studied. We review the literature on the psychology of meat consumption, its gendered associations in western cultural contexts, and test a compassion appraisal model for ethical food choice. In a longitudinal restaurant field study and three laboratory experiments, we investigate the effects of interhuman as well as interspecies compassion appeals on meat-containing vs. meatless food choices. Compassion mediates ethical food choices, but is moderated by denial of the harmful consequences of meat production. Threats to masculinity that are often associated with meat advertising increase men's likelihood to choose meat instead of a vegetarian option. Overall, results indicate that men are less amenable to reduce their meat consumption and that they evaluate vegetarian options as less palatable when exposed to compassion appeals. These effects were opposite for women. We discuss implications for meatless food products and for consumer well-being.
... Although the reason for intake was not reported, the prevalence of young birds of altricial species indicates that people likely perceive birds at younger life stages as needing to be rescued. This explanation is supported by other work showing people often feel a connection toward infant animals and perceive them to be in danger (Archer and Monton 2011;Levin et al. 2017). ...
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Animals from urban areas are regularly brought into wildlife rehabilitation centers, providing untapped potential data records to inform management of wildlife species. Although rescues may be considered a wildlife stewardship behavior, not all ‘rescues’ may be warranted. Some animals are more likely to be brought into a rescue center than others, suggesting that human drivers underlying wildlife rehabilitation efforts are important to understand for urban conservation efforts. Literature has primarily focused on understanding the ecological drivers and implications of wildlife rescues. Our study is the first to investigate both the social and ecological drivers of bird rescues using census, household survey, and intake data. In Phoenix metropolitan area, Arizona, USA in 2017–2018, we found doves and common species were sent to the center most often. Altricial species (helpless at hatching) and young birds were more likely to be brought to the center, perhaps due to perceptions of young animals as vulnerable. We found rescues came from neighborhoods with higher incomes and residents with pro-ecological worldviews, perhaps reflecting a perceived responsibility for wildlife. Conversely, few rescues came from neighborhoods with a high percentage of Hispanic/Latinx residents, who often feel more interdependent with nature. Neighborhoods with greater numbers of rescues were more likely to have residents participating in yard stewardship activities as compared to neighborhoods with fewer rescues. Our findings are relevant to understanding drivers of wildlife stewardship actions and for intake centers who wish to reduce the occurrence of people bringing in wildlife that do not need to be rescued.
... This was done because research has shown that young children are often viewed as less credible witnesses than older children (Bala, Ramakrishnan, Lindsay, & Lee, 2005;Bruck & Ceci, 1999), although in certain circumstances younger children are actually less susceptible to making erroneous statements than older children and adults (e.g., Brainerd & Reyna, 2012; see also Otgaar, Howe, Merckelbach, & Muris, 2019). Additionally, research with undergraduate students has shown that people in general are more emotionally disturbed by reports from younger children than older children, which can lead them to show more empathic concern (Levin, Arluke, & Irvine, 2017). Based on Levin and colleagues' work (2017), we hypothesized that the statement of a 5year old child concerning sexual abuse would be perceived as more credible than the 15-year old victim's statement, because police investigators' empathy with the younger victim would outweigh their concerns about the credibility of the younger victim's statement. ...
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This preregistered experiment aimed to investigate the impact of background information regarding an alleged victim of child sexual abuse on police investigators’ perception of the credibility of the victim’s statement, expected case outcome, and the type of questions police investigators plan to ask the victim in an investigative interview. We expected that the age and the description of the alleged victim’s character would affect perceived credibility, prediction of case prosecution and the use of biased questions in the interview plan. Indonesian police investigators (N =369) read a case vignette of either a 5- or a 15-year old female victim of child sexual abuse, including either a good character, bad character, or no character information. Participants receiving the story of the 15-year old alleged victim perceived the victim as having contributed more to the crime, predicted the case as more likely to be withdrawn and included more biased questions in their interview plans than those who received the story of a 5-year old alleged victim. Moreover, participants being told that the alleged victim had a bad character perceived her statement as less reliable, having contributed more to the crime, predicted the case as more likely to be withdrawn or dropped-out than those who received information about the alleged victim with a good character. We did not find any effect of our background information manipulation on the perception of suspect guilt, and on the estimated likelihood of the allegation being confirmed by corroborative evidence or being prosecuted. The current findings suggest that background information can negatively affect police investigators’ judgment and decision-making when working on a child sexual abuse case.
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(Accepted manuscript at Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin) Current animal victimology and speciesism research has predominantly focussed on anthropocentric speciesism (prejudice favouring humans over animals) and neglects pet speciesism (prejudice favouring pets over non-pets). Moreover, research rarely explores whether identifiability of animal victims affects perceptions of them in line with the identifiable (human) victim effect. Drawing on speciesism and dehumanization theories, the current experiment addressed these gaps in the literature by comparing 160 adult participants’ perceptions of a dog vs. pig victim of kidnapping. As predicted, a MANOVA confirmed that people feel more empathy for, and are more willing to help, dogs (vs. pigs). Conversely, people expressed greater victim derogation towards pigs (vs. dogs). Participants also displayed more second-hand forgiveness for perpetrators of crime against pig (vs. dog) victims. However, species had no effect on victim blaming and identifiability of the animal victim had no effect on perceptions of the animal, and there were no significant species x identifiability interactions. The current experiment uniquely extends our human-based knowledge to perceptions of dog vs. pig victims and further evidences the existence of pet speciesism. It also highlights that the identifiable (human) victim effect may not apply to animal victims, thus distinguishing animal victimology as a distinct area of investigation. Theoretical implications for animal victimology and pet speciesism literature, and practical implications for policy and public perceptions of animal victims, are discussed.
How can we as individuals or groups mitigate climate change? One key issue is whether motives other than the pursuit of material self-interest can be used fruitfully to reduce climate change. In this article I describe recent research that supports three deeply rooted concerns: (a) concern with other humans (prosociality), (b) concern with equality (egalitarianism), and (c) concern with animals (as part of adherence to biospheric values). Because one of the chief issues regarding climate change is its abstractness, it is important in public education to highlight the concreteness of climate change’s harm done (a) to other people, such as (grand)children, (b) to people suffering the most (and having contributed the least to climate change), and (c) to key aspects of nature, including not only ‘adorable animals’ (such as pandas or koalas), but even the suffering and threat of extinction of butterflies and other insects.
Due to the cosmetic standards of food service operators, most consumers have had limited exposure to visually unappealing foods. Thus, unused ugly foods end up becoming food waste. To encourage consumers to buy ugly foods with the hope of relieving the severity of food waste, this study attempts to further verify the effectiveness of anthropomorphism in advertising. The purpose of this study is to determine whether the effectiveness of anthropomorphism varies based on the individual consumer characteristics of gender and age. Specifically, the objectives of this study are 1) to investigate whether gender interacts with anthropomorphism and 2) to identify the moderating effect of age. A total of 421 participants were hired through Amazon Mturk, and a 2 × 2 × 2 between-subjects full-factorial experimental design was used. The results suggest that anthropomorphism could be advantageous in improving consumers’ purchase intentions, as well as confirm anthropomorphism’s interactional effect with gender. Furthermore, this interactional effect varies across different age groups (younger vs. older). This study extends the relevant literature and provides the food service industry with insightful marketing suggestions to promote ugly foods.
As of June 2020, there have been at least 2,540 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, on December 14, 2012. Some have suggested that the repeated trauma of these massacres has created a collective “emotional numbness,” lessening our empathy. This article asks whether a similar phenomenon is occurring with respect to environmental crime and harm. It considers whether we have developed “compassion fatigue” regarding environmental violence and contemplates a “workout regimen” for empathy for Gaia’s suffering. In so doing, it seeks to engage with emerging work in the penumbra of narrative criminology and green cultural criminology.
Tested the hypothesis that empathy leads to altruistic rather than egoistic motivation to help. 44 female college students watched another female undergraduate receive electric shocks and were then given a chance to help her by taking the remaining shocks themselves. In each of 2 experiments, Ss' empathic emotion (low vs high) and their ease of escape from continuing to watch the victim suffer if they did not help (easy vs difficult) were manipulated in a 2 × 2 design. It was reasoned that if empathy led to altruistic motivation, Ss feeling a high degree of empathy for the victim should be as ready to help when escape without helping was easy as when it was difficult. But if empathy led to egoistic motivation, Ss feeling empathy should be more ready to help when escape was difficult than when it was easy. Results followed the former pattern when empathy was high and the latter pattern when empathy was low, supporting the hypothesis that empathy leads to altruistic rather than egoistic motivation to help. (19 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Proposed that a distinction be made between 2 emotional responses to seeing another person suffer--personal distress and empathy--and that these 2 emotions lead to 2 different kinds of motivation to help: Personal distress leads to egoistic motivation; empathy, to altruistic motivation. These distinctions were tested in 3 studies, each using 10 male and 10 female undergraduates. Across the 3 studies, factor analysis of Ss' self-reported emotional response indicated that feelings of personal distress and empathy, although positively correlated, were experienced as qualitatively distinct. The pattern of helping in Studies 1 and 2 indicated that a predominance of personal distress led to egoistic motivation, whereas a predominance of empathy led to altruistic motivation. In Study 3, the cost of helping was made especially high. Results suggest an important qualification on the link between empathic emotion and altruistic motivation: Ss reporting a predominance of empathy displayed an egoistic pattern of helping. Apparently, making helping costly evoked self-concern, which overrode any altruistic impulse produced by feeling empathy. (12 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Although there is a substantial body of research on inter-human empathy and inter-animal empathy, there is a dearth of research comparing humans' empathic reactions to humans and animals. To address this issue, three experiments were conducted in which participants read a scenario about a human or animal abuse victim in need of medical attention, and indicated the degree of empathy they had on an emotional response scale. In Experiment 1, women had significantly more empathy for animals than for humans, whereas men tended to express more empathy for humans than for animals. In Experiment 2, adult women expressed the same degree of empathy for a child as for a puppy. Similarly, in Experiment 3, adult men and women expressed the same degree of empathy for a baby as for a puppy. Overall, results indicated that people feel at least as much empathy for animals as for humans. We suggest that an animal target elicits a great deal of empathy partly because it is perceived as not being responsible for having caused the need situation. Future research will show whether empathy for animals translates to prosocial behavior toward them as well.
The recent introduction of the concepts of tenderness, vulnerability, and parental care in the field of moral emotions has brought us closer to an understanding of the underlying mechanisms, but has not yet resulted in a systematic evolutionary and proximate analysis. Applying such an analysis, the present article proposes a hypothetical care mechanism that produces different motivational states or moral emotions (e.g., tenderness, sympathy, guilt, moral anger) in response to individuals perceived as vulnerable. The mechanism consists of a care system automatically triggered by vulnerability cues, a system for defense and aggression, and a process of causally attributing changes in the vulnerable object's well-being. The mechanism may also be useful in explaining moral responses in domains other than harm prevention.
A survey mailed to 1,650 mid-life couples resulted in a subsample of 242 couples whose pet had died during the 3 years prior to the survey. Among the subsample who reported pet loss, about half of wives and more than a quarter of husbands reported they were "quite" or "extremely" disturbed by the death of a family pet. For husbands, pet loss was rated about as stressful as the loss of a close friendship, for wives about as stressful as losing touch with their married children. There was consensus on the rating of the stressfulness of pet loss by fewer than half of the couples.
This paper examines the variations in dog owners' attitudes toward, treatment of, and interactions with, animals. Based on 28 in-depth interviews with dog owners from a county in the Midwestern United States, I demonstrate that pets are an important part of many people's lives, often providing companionship, entertainment, and meaningful interactions; however, there are notable, distinct variations in how people relate to them. Pet owners typically exhibit one of three orientations toward pets: “dominionistic,” “humanistic,” or “protectionistic.” The dominionistic have relatively low regard for their pets, valuing them primarily for the uses they provide, such as protection. Those employing the humanistic orientation elevate their pets to the status of surrogate humans and value their pets primarily for the affective benefits they enjoy from their close attachments. The protectionistic have high regard for both pets and animals more generally. They view pets as valuable companions and as creatures with their own interests. This typology offers insights for understanding the source and variety of the often ambiguous and contradictory relations between people and pets. I argue that individual characteristics and experiences impact how people understand and relate to animals, in large part, because they represent exposure to different cultural messages. I suggest that these orientations represent three sets of distinct cultural logics, each with distinct histories and contemporary sources.