Jack Levin, the Irving and Betty Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University, presented new research at session of annual meeting of the American Sociological Association that indicates human empathy is at least in part motivated by the level of vulnerability of the victim.
Levin’s work is the first documented refutation of the concept that people at present have more empathy for animals than they do for other people.
The researchers examined the response of 250 participants that were 18 to 25 years of age to hypothetical news articles that involved the beating of an adult dog of six years of age, a puppy, an adult male in his thirties, and a child of one year of age. All components of the articles were the same except the identity and age of the victim.
Age induced more empathy than species. The consensus of participant opinion was that a more vulnerable entity like a child or a puppy was inherently more deserving of empathy than older animals or people who were perceived as being capable of self protection.
Puppies and children rated the same on the empathy scale from the experiment.
This is the first experimental evidence ever presented that defies the urban myth of people caring more about animals in modern society than they do about other people.