Study: Babies, puppies elicit most empathy

We all know people who seem to prefer man’s best friend over man.

Now a new study confirms that people may feel more empathy for dogs than for some of their fellow humans.

Especially when it comes to violence, according to a report on the study in

The study, by Northeastern University researchers, involved randomly giving each of 240 study participants one of four fictional news stories. The stories involved the beatings of a baby, an adult in his 30s, a puppy or a 6-year-old dog. After reading the story, the participants rated how much empathy they had for the victims of the attacks.

The study found that people cared more about the suffering of children, puppies and full-grown dogs and lastly, about human adults.

And, this might surprise you: Participants had about the same amount of empathy for the child as they did for the puppy.

“We were surprised by the interaction of age and species,” researcher Jack Levin said in a news release. “Age seems to trump species when it comes to eliciting empathy.”

Researchers noted cats would likely elicit the same kind of empathy as dogs in such a study.

Researchers will present the study at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

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