New research proves that humans love dogs more than other humans
No matter how great we consider our human buddies to be, the title of 'man's best friend' will always belong to dogs. Yeah, they might not be able to hold a decent conversation, and, no, they probably won't help you move house - but they're loyal, and they're adorable, and they're more selfless than any person you'll ever meet.
It turns out, though, that the love we have for dogs goes beyond that of a simple friendship.
A recent study by Professor Jack Levin and Professor Arnold Arluke from Northeastern University in Boston tested how empathetic people were to dogs in comparison to humans, and the results were pretty eye-opening.
During the experiment, 240 participants were given one of four newspaper articles, each describing a vicious attack "with a baseball bat by an unknown assailant". The police report included in the articles was almost exactly the same every time: "Arriving on the scene a few minutes after the attack, a police officer found the victim with one broken leg, multiple lacerations, and unconscious," it said. "No arrests have been made in the case."
However, one change was made between the four: the identity of the victim.
In the first article, the subject of the attack was a 30-year-old person, in the second it was an infant child, and in the other two, the victim was a defenceless six-year-old dog or a young puppy. But which victim did people feel most sorry for?
Well, dog-lovers, it'll probably come as no surprise to you, but the dog received more empathy than the human. In fact, the poor 30-year-old came last out of all four victims, with the human baby and the puppy pretty much tied in first place in terms of who received the most empathy.
“Respondents were significantly less distressed when adult humans were victimized, in comparison with human babies, puppies and adult dogs,” the study concluded. “Only relative to the infant victim did the adult dog receive lower scores of empathy.”
It added that, "Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as 'fur babies,' or family members alongside human children."
In a way, this makes sense. An adult human being should be far more capable of fending off another human attacker than a dog or a baby would be, so it's natural to show more concern for the weaker victims. And people have known this for a while.
In a 2015 UK campaign, one charity distributed two sets of images: one of a young child, and one of a really sad-looking little puppy. Each set of pictures had the same copy on them - "Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?"
As you may have guessed, the downtrodden doggy received more attention than the person.
"The fact adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full-grown dog victims suggests adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids," said professor Levin.
"In addition, it appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves while full-grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies."
The researchers also believe that results would be similar for cats, as, "These are animals to which many individuals attribute human characteristics."
As fascinating as these results may be, we've got to admit that we always knew it to some extent. After all, there's no better person than a dog.