Some dog owners love their four-legged friends so much that they treat them like they would a child – some even preferring them to friends and family.
According to new research, there is a scientific reason why….
A study published in the journal Society & Animals found that people are more empathetic towards dogs than fellow humans.
The experiment included 240 students who were presented with fake newspaper clippings of police reports about either an attack on a person, or on a dog.
The fake reports outlined that a victim was attacked “with a baseball bat by an unknown assailant,” and was left unconscious “with one broken leg” and “multiple lacerations.”
The same report was given to participants but the victims were swapped out between a one-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy, or a six-year-old dog. The participants were then asked questions to measure their levels of empathy.
The team hypothesised that the vulnerability of the victims – determined by age, rather than species – would be the most important factor in participants’ levels of empathy.
In fact, empathy levels for the puppy, older dog, and baby human were all similar levels, while the adult person came last. The adult dog only received lower scores of empathy when compared to the infant human victim.
“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies,’ or family members alongside human children,” the researchers concluded, showing how people often think of their pets as part of the family.
Last month, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports found one reason we’re so attached to our dogs. According to the team, this is related to the facial movements dogs make when a human is paying attention to them.
It was previously thought that animal facial expressions were purely unconscious, but the study found that dogs manipulate their facial expressions when looking for attention from a human.