What's harder to watch: An adult human kicking a puppy or an adult human kicking another adult human? Science says: the puppy. A new study has found abused dogs—both puppies and grown-ups—elicit more sympathy than abused adult humans. Abused human kids, however, are equally sympathetic as abused dogs, LiveScience reports. "The fact that adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full grown dog victims suggests that adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids," says one of the study's researchers.
The researchers at Northeastern University in Boston showed 240 students one of four news articles about a beating—each article was the same except for the victim, which was variously an infant, a puppy, a man in his 30s, or a 6-year-old dog. "We were surprised by the interaction of age and species," says a co-author of the study, per Science Daily. "Age seems to trump species, when it comes to eliciting empathy. In addition, it appears that adult humans are viewed as capable of protecting themselves while full grown dogs are just seen as larger puppies."