Why do we empathize more with dogs than with people

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If you’re anything like us, the death of an animal in a film will hit you so much harder than a human demise, especially if that animal is a dog. Poor innocent villagers can be killed or imprisoned, and it will be absolutely heartbreaking, but the sheer tsunami of tears that are unleashed when a poor pooch dies or is maltreated is incomparable! You may be surprised to hear that there is a scientific reason for this!

Puppy love

A simple reason for why we love dogs so much more than people is solely because they are easier to love! They are selfless, loyal and always happy to see you – who else in your life can you genuinely say that about!? Dogs are man’s best friend for a whole host of reasons, and they are a symbol of unconditional love and companionship in a way that no other animals are. News stories show dogs waiting by their owners’ graves crying whereas cats are more likely just to eat your dead body before you’re even cold.

The study

A team of researchers from Northeastern University Boston and the University of Colorado Boulder teamed up to compare the empathetic responses between a one-year-old baby, an adult of 30 years old, a young puppy and a six-year-old dog. The 256 undergraduate participants were given a fake news report featuring one of the subjects having been attacked by a baseball bat and receiving multiple severe wounds. The theory was that the more vulnerable a victim, the more empathy that would be shown.

The results

Empathy for the baby, puppy and adult dog were roughly equal; however, empathy for the adult victim was noticeably less. The female participants in the study overall showed significantly higher levels of empathy than the males, although the reasons for this could be widely debated. Perhaps it is their maternal instincts or just the way that the world teaches men to hide their emotions more than women through cultural bias.

Why is this?

It seems as though dogs are seen as having the same level of vulnerability as children, perhaps because they are reliant on humans for food, walks and love. They are unable to protect themselves, and there is not anything they could have done to warrant an unprovoked attack by someone wielding a baseball bat. Conversely, it could be said that the adult in the study may have provoked the attacker in some way that the baby, dog, and puppy could not have done.

Does the dog die

This heartache felt by film audiences at the death of dogs has led to the creation of many lists of films in which dogs die, including the low-tech website doesthedogdie.com whose sole aim is to answer questions about triggers, including, of course, whether a dog dies.

Although you may have felt alone in your feels towards dog deaths in films, hopefully now you can see that not only is it a widespread feeling, but there is also proof behind it that shows we are all much more empathetic towards dogs than adult humans!

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