Dogs have the ability to bring the sweetness out of even the toughest soul, but could we really adore them more than our fellow-man? A couple of research studies seem to point that way.
If you’re someone that treats your pet as if it’s your own child, or you’d do anything to help a dog in need – let’s just say you’re not alone. What’s been discovered is that people might actually have greater empathy for our four-legged friends.
The Society & Animals journal published a study that aimed to see if a group of 256 undergraduates would be more bothered by violence against a dog, rather than a human.
According to Business Insider, the students were given fictitious news articles containing stories of brutal attacks. In each one, the victim changed between a puppy, an adult dog, a one-year-old human baby, and a 30-year-old person.
The researches then tested the students’ empathy levels towards the victims with a series of questions. They shared their beliefs in the journal, saying:
“We hypothesized that the vulnerability of victims—determined by their age and not species—would determine participants’ levels of distress and concern for them.”
What they discovered was that the adult human measured the lowest on levels of empathy compared to the baby, puppy, and older dog. In fact, the adult dog measured only lower than the baby, in terms of scores.
Business Insider reported that researchers also revealed:
“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies,’ or family members alongside human children.”
Another experiment that pulled on human emotions involved a UK charity called, Harrison’s Fund, which was seeking money for medical research.
In an article by The Times, they explain how two advertisements were created for the charity, each with the saying, “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?”
How these ads differed though, is that one featured a photo of a human boy and the other a dog. In the end, people were two times more interested in donating to the canine Harrison, rather than the child. In other words, they had more empathy for man’s best friend.
A different study that was conducted focused on the facial expressions of dogs – and whether they use them voluntarily.
While it doesn’t necessarily pinpoint why we’re more empathetic towards them than humans – it did have interesting results that demonstrate a reason why maybe we have such a close bond.
The Scientific Results journal printed the experiment which placed 24 dogs separately in various scenarios with a human. Researchers observed the dogs’ facial expressions by using a video camera.
The dogs were recorded with either the human facing towards them, or facing away from them, and also at times with a treat. What they realized was that the canines used more facial expressions when they were face-to-face with the human, rather than the person being turned away.
As The Guardian reported:
“…the animals were more likely to show their tongues and raise their inner eyebrows.”
What’s believed is that this shows that instead of our pooch’s facial movements being unconscious, they do indeed control them to communicate with us.
The treat, on the other hand, didn’t have an effect on their expressions. One of the study’s authors, University of Portsmouth professor, Bridget Waller, said:
“We wanted to see if dogs would produce the most facial expressions when they saw the face and the food, because that might then tell us they are trying to intentionally manipulate the human in order to get the food – and we didn’t see that.”
Don’t you just love dogs? I guess it’s no wonder why we do! Watch the video below to hear more about this interesting topic.
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