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Are People More Disturbed by Animal or Human Suffering: The Influence of Species and Age

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Abstract:

This research examines the widely held belief that people are more emotionally disturbed by reports of 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 either a brutally beaten human adult or child versus an adult dog or puppy, as described in a fictitious news report. In a 2 (dog vs human) X 2 (infant or puppy vs adult) factorial experimental design, participants responded to one of four vignettes on a scale designed to assess their degree of empathy. We hypothesized that the dependence of victims—their age and not species—would determine participants’ level of distress and concern for them. However, results revealed a somewhat more complicated picture. The main effect for age but not for species was significant. In a significant interaction effect, moreover, we found significantly more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans. In other words, age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims. We also found that female participants were significantly more empathic toward victims—either human or animal—than were their male counterparts.

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human (43), victim (41), anim (38), 1 (25), empathi (22), particip (21), 2 (20), 7 (20), dog (19), 6 (19), adult (19), 4 (18), peopl (18), 3 (17), speci (17), 5 (17), age (16), signific (15), studi (14), x (14), one (13),
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Name: American Sociological Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

Levin, Jack. and Arluke, Arnold. "Are People More Disturbed by Animal or Human Suffering: The Influence of Species and Age" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton New York and Sheraton New York, New York, NY, Aug 09, 2013 <Not Available>. 2014-07-18 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p652313_index.html>

APA Citation:

Levin, J. and Arluke, A. , 2013-08-09 "Are People More Disturbed by Animal or Human Suffering: The Influence of Species and Age" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton New York and Sheraton New York, New York, NY Online <PDF>. 2014-07-18 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p652313_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This research examines the widely held belief that people are more emotionally disturbed by reports of 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 either a brutally beaten human adult or child versus an adult dog or puppy, as described in a fictitious news report. In a 2 (dog vs human) X 2 (infant or puppy vs adult) factorial experimental design, participants responded to one of four vignettes on a scale designed to assess their degree of empathy. We hypothesized that the dependence of victims—their age and not species—would determine participants’ level of distress and concern for them. However, results revealed a somewhat more complicated picture. The main effect for age but not for species was significant. In a significant interaction effect, moreover, we found significantly more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans. In other words, age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims. We also found that female participants were significantly more empathic toward victims—either human or animal—than were their male counterparts.

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