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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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... Outpourings of support for individually identified animals, coupled with the frequent indifference of humans toward the destruction of natural habitats suggest that our empathy toward non-humans is fraught with the same biases as our empathy toward humans (Macdonald et al., 2016;Levin et al., 2017;Buhrmester et al., 2018). Gross errors of our empathic responses can be found in our obsession with saving injured wildlife, even if it condemns them to a life in a cage or is ultimately ineffectual (Augee et al., 1996;Sharp, 1996), and feeding wildlife in ways that cause disease and suffering (Bryant, 1994;Orams, 2002). ...
... For example, this effort underscores the empathy that dogs evoke within humans. Recent evidence highlights that when participants were asked to note their empathy for either human or canine victims of a violent assault -which varied portrayal of the victim as an infant, adult, a puppy, or 6-year-old dog -the greatest empathy was expressed for the infant followed by the puppy (Levin et al., 2017). Importantly for our purposes, the 6-year-old dog victim garnered a greater level of empathy in comparison to the adult human victim. ...
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Growing attention to police shootings of unarmed citizens has provoked important discussions surrounding use of police force. While an emerging literature explores perceptions of those victimized by police, less is known about White Americans’ opinions towards the institution of policing. Drawing from stereotyping and dehumanization literatures, do Whites’ attitudes towards police vary based on the identity of a victim? And does the news of any police shooting influence Whites’ attitudes about police? Across two survey experiments, participants read a news story describing police killing an innocent victim and report subsequent attitudes towards police. We find that Whites’ views of police remain relatively neutral, on average, in response to news of a fatal police shooting. Our findings suggest that protest mobilization adjacent to police brutality may mask an underlying neutrality in opinions about policing.
... That is, animal victims, whether identifiable or not, may be fundamentally nonrelatable. However, previous research indicates people empathise with dogs just as strongly or even more strongly than fellow adult humans (Levin et al., 2017) and that dogs are deemed 'psychological kin' (Topolski et al., 2013). Thus, people do seemingly relate to (at least some) animals (e.g., dogs), and therefore the absence of significant effects of identifiability is unexpected. ...
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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.
... Some studies have found that at least under some circumstances people report stronger emotional responses when animals are harmed than when humans are (e.g., Topolski, Weaver, Martin, & McCoy, 2013). Levin, Arluke, and Irvine (2017) have recently argued that the most important factor in such comparisons is the vulnerability of the target, which is determined primarily by its age (puppy vs. dog; baby vs. adult). However, even in that study it was found that an adult dog evoked more empathy than an adult human. ...
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While considerable research has been carried out to understand helping offered to other humans, relatively little research has focused specifically on the motivations underlying helping for animals. It is possible that the social psychological helping literature may help shed light on the question of human-animal helping, and may provide some ways to investigate this issue. To evaluate this possibility, we provided participants with a hypothetical situation involving an animal in need of help. Participants were asked to imagine that the situation is happening to them, and then to indicate the likelihood that they would provide the needed help. They were also asked to report on the thoughts and feelings that they would experience in that situation. Our results indicated that the same variables that have been used successfully in understanding the motivations underlying the help we offer to fellow humans (obligation, oneness, empathic concern) also successfully predict helping offered to non-humans. Also consistent with the social psychological research on helping motivations, both egoistic and altruistic motives appear to play a role in the helping decisions regarding animals. Thus, initial evidence suggests that this technique may be a valid way of examining the motivations underlying the helping that humans offer to animals.
... To narrate the indings of the present-day examination, it's been determined that human attitudes toward animal care and right expand with time and interplay. They also report that humans catch senseless animals in the same way they care about human children (Levin, Arluke, & Irvine, 2017). ...
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In the social sciences, assessment of societal attitudes toward animals’ rights is very important to understand the relationship between science and the normative pattern of society. In the present study, a survey was carried out to determine the knowledge and attitude of Pakistani university students toward animal suffering and rights. By reviewing existing literature, limited studies were carried out in Pakistan. A random sampling technique was used in which an online cross-sectional study was conducted, and 200 respondent students participated in the survey from different public-sector universities in the province of Punjab, Pakistan. The data was collected through a web-based questionnaire. The questions were designed to explain the respondents' views toward animals' suffering and rights while keeping in view the cultural and religious perspectives. Study results demonstrated that a surprising majority of students, including ladies and men (55% p 0.05), were not well aware of animal rights. About 49.4% of respondents did not consider it an injustice, while 51.8% considered it right to kill the animals to achieve trophies. Furthermore, it has been observed that about 84% (p 0.05) were in favor of the adoption of pets. The level of attitudes toward animal care varies concerning age, education, and residency in rural or urban areas; however, the trend remains equal in each gender. In short, students do not know about animal rights. Considering how important animal rights are, this study showed that the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan needs to hold workshops and awareness campaigns in universities to teach students about animal rights and how to protect them.
... 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.
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This study aimed to develop the short form of the Animal Empathy Scale (AES-SF). To this end, the study first conducted the Turkish validity and reliability analyses of the long scale and the selection of the items for the short form. The construct validity of the eight-item short form of the scale was then tested in a separate sample. The construct validity of the scales was examined in the first sample using principal component analysis and in the second sample using confirmatory factor analysis. In both studies, the convergent validity of the scales was tested with related psychological traits. McDonald’s omega and item-total test correlation coefficients were used to assess the reliability of the scales. Test-retest reliability was also examined for the short form of the scale. The long form of the scale showed a two-factor structure, as did the original scale. The analyses indicated that the long scale was valid and reliable for Turkish culture. The confirmatory factor analysis results of the AES-SF supported the two-factor structure. Convergent validity analyses showed that the relationships were significant and in the expected direction. The correlation coefficients between the scores on the short and long forms of the scale are also high. Reliability scores also indicated that the short form provided accurate and stable measures. Furthermore, the validity and reliability coefficients of the short and long forms are close. According to these results, the AES-SF can be used as an alternative to the long form of the scale.
There is a set of hypotheses commonly used in the literature to explain how pets affect human well-being (e.g., pets as social catalysts). Many studies are reported as giving results consistent with one or more of these, but they may not appear to be sufficient to explain the impacts of several pet-related activities on owner well-being. Confirmation bias may also overshadow the consideration of alternative mechanisms. This report aims to review and evaluate a range of psychosocial hypotheses that might help to explain how pets affect the well-being of their owners. This included a theoretical testing of the hypotheses against the recurring themes which emerged from four previously published qualitative frameworks relating to pet-related activities and their well-being outcomes. Twelve psychosocial hypotheses were generated and evaluated using this process: (1) social catalyst-repellent, (2) emotional contagion and empathy, (3) social support, (4) biophilia, (5) attributed fault, (6) social norms, (7) annoyance by noises, (8) routine, (9) caring, (10) exercise, (11) learning, and (12) affective touch. Only three presented potentially contradictory evidence (i.e., social catalyst-repellent, routine, and caring hypotheses), but closer examination revealed that these could not be rejected. These twelve hypotheses are a source of reference for a broader consideration of how pets might affect human well-being. Researchers are encouraged to use, test and/or challenge these hypotheses using established methods of scientific falsification in order to identify which are of the most important in relation to specific owner well-being outcomes.
Despite numerous documented benefits derived from pets among those who are socially marginalized, public attitudes often reflect a perception that people living in poverty should not be pet owners. Two studies assessed individual differences that might predict reactions to those living in poverty as a function of the presence or absence of a pet, and support for social service policies that enable or restrict access to pets based on financial means. Both studies involved online surveys assessing individual differences (social justice orientation, individualistic beliefs about poverty, identifying/empathy with others, and attitudes toward animals), and novel outcome measures assessing responses to a person requesting financial assistance from passersby and to social service policies regarding pets and people living in poverty. In study 1 (n = 212), when the hypothetical person asking for financial assistance was accompanied by a pet, participants expressed less suspicion of them, and the presence of a pet caused those low in social justice orientation to express more concern and give more money. Social justice orientation and attitudes toward animals were associated with greater support for policies that enable pet care and diminished support for policies that restrict pet access. Study 2 (n = 278) largely replicated study 1. In addition, two conditions made differentially salient the benefits of the human–pet relationship for either pet or human wellness (vs. a control condition). The salience of benefits to the pet increased support for enabling policies among those with lower social justice orientations; making salient the human or pet benefits similarly affected support for such policies among those who were less empathetic toward animals. The findings suggest that contextual cues can raise awareness among some individuals who might not otherwise be compassionate toward people in poverty with pets.
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.