It seems obvious that we tend to showing empathy more with those people we know well: our friends, family members and, in general, the people we see from time to time for many years.
From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that this is the case, Because taking care of the closest members of our community is a way to increase the chances that a large part of our genes, which are also found in people whose lineage is close to ours, will be passed down to generations. futures.
This pattern of social functioning specific to all human beings may seem robust, but it is far from explaining everything. What happens, for example, when there are members of our community who are not even our species? Can it be normal that we can feel more empathy for a non-human animal than for a person? This possibility doesn’t seem absurd, judging from what has been explained above in this article, but there are also specific studies that address our way of empathizing with humans and animals and the preferences we have shown. between them.
Empathy doesn’t understand cash
A few years ago, sociologists Arnold Arluke and Jack Levin of the University of the North East decided to find out how true it is that we tend to have more empathy with pets or with people. To do this, they showed 240 men and women a text with the appearance of a newspaper article describing criminal acts. These stories included a part where you could read how an abuser beat someone with a baseball bat. In one version of the article that was only read by some people, this abuser attacked a puppy until it broke some bones and left him unconscious, while in the alternate versions of this same article , the one who received the beatings was an adult dog, a baby. or an adult human being around 30 years old.
After reading one of these versions of the article, and not knowing that they were fictional stories, each of the people who took part in the study they rated the degree of empathy with the victim on a scale and they felt sorry for what had happened to him. The results did not leave the adult human being in too happy a position, it was the story that left most of the volunteers the most indifferent. The article that produced the most consternation was that of the human baby, followed closely by that of the puppy, while the story of the adult goose comes in third.
Arluke and Levin point out that when it comes to arousing feelings of empathy, species and age matter. However, the variable that seems to best explain our emotional response in these cases is not the species of being at risk, but the degree to which we perceive that he is a helpless and helpless being. In this way, we can explain why an adult dog elicits more compassion in us than a 30-year-old human being. The former seems to us less able to protect his own life because he lives in a world controlled by our species.
It’s time to choose: would you save a human or an animal?
In another experiment conducted by members of Georgia Regents University and Cape Fear Community College, several researchers focused on how we sympathize with animals when faced with a moral dilemma. Specifically, they looked to see how well we behave with animals or humans by using a group of 573 people of virtually all ages as a sample. These participants were placed in a hypothetical situation in which an uncontrolled bus endangered the lives of two beings (a human and a dog) and they had to choose which of the two to save.
The results of this study, published in the journal Anthrozoos, once again show how empathy towards pets or humans cannot be predicted by simply looking at the species to which the potential victim belongs. In providing an answer, participants considered who was the human at risk and who was the dog. 40% of people preferred to help the dog when it was described as their pet and the human was an anonymous tourist., And something similar happened when the person was a stranger from the same city (37% chose to save the dog). But only 14% preferred to save the dog when he and the person were anonymous.
Interestingly, moreover, the women who participated in the experiment showed a greater propensity to offer protection to quadrupeds. More or less, the option to choose to save the dog doubled when the respondent was female.
First class … and second class animals
Of course, this latest experience is moving into the realm of the imaginary, and perhaps not exactly what would happen in a real situation. Come to think of it, something tells me that if there really was a scenario in which a bus bounced off a person and a dog, the gut reaction of most observers wouldn’t be to decide which of the two to save with a push. timely. However, it is curious to see how some animals have managed to enter the area of our moral operations and can be treated as beings to whom guide our decisions and our ethics.
However, we know that being an animal of one species or another greatly influences how we are viewed. Just look at how some cats have managed to take over Youtube, while other species (mosquitoes, spiders, mice, birds of prey …) seem to arouse in a large part of the population an immense desire to kill .
Species matters, yes, but that’s not all. We can only spontaneously sympathize with certain species that have been evolutionarily prepared to live with us and have the rest treated as nothing more than raw material in the meat industry, but for now we know that we do not are not programmed to protect only those of our lineage. Our most distant relatives are perfectly likely to be considered as important as anyone, if not more.