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Study: Human Empathy With Dogs Stronger Than With Own Species

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(credit: Silverman/Getty Images)

(credit: Silverman/Getty Images)

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By Chelsea Karnash

BOSTON, MA (CBS) – If you can’t stand to watch more than two seconds of the ASPCA commercial – you know the one — without bursting into tears, this one’s for you.

A new study conducted by Northeastern University in Boston shows that people may feel more empathy with dogs than they do with members of their own species.

The research, which looked at 240 men and women who were mostly white and between the ages of 18 and 25, involved fictional stories about either an animal, a child or an adult being beaten. The respondents were then asked to share how much they cared about each subject, with the suffering of the dog and the child eliciting more empathy than the suffering of the adult subject.

Surprisingly, researchers say that people probably don’t care less about their own kind, but care more about the perceived vulnerability of the subject.

“Contrary to popular thinking, we are not necessarily more disturbed by animal rather than human suffering,” said study co-author Jack Levin, a professor at Northeastern University in a statement. “Our results indicate a much more complex situation with respect to the age and species of victims, with age being the more important component.”

Like children, who are young and dependent and vulnerable because of it, dogs are also seen as dependent, requiring the care and protection of humans.

So the next time you race to change the channel as soon as you hear the opening strains of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.

To view the study, visit: www.northeastern.edu/news/in-the-news/empathy-with-dogs-stronger-than-with-humans-study/#sthash.bJ84rs36.dpuf

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