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A Comparison of Empathy for Humans and Empathy for Animals

Angantyr, M., Eklund J., & Hansen, E., (2011) A Comparison of Empathy for Humans and Empathy for Animals, Anthrozoös, 24:4, 369-377

This paper is a study in comparative empathy which runs three experiments to see if there is a correlation between levels of empathy for human, and non-human animals in participants. The study, although it does not specifically state this, tries to explore empathy as a universal across species and its rhetoric implies that it wishes to fund that empathy for humans and non-human animals is similar in form and practice. This would imply that empathy is not culturally constituted or constructed but innate.

The paper offers some frameworks for testing empathy for human and non-human animals by using scenario based responses and replacing the subject in the narrative, which again i think is problematic as the logic of the narrative is surely comprised of its constitute parts and  characters when it is rendered by the audience.

Useful Quotes

“Most researchers who have studied human–animal empathy have included cognitive aspects in their definitions of empathy. We adopted, instead, a modified version of Batson’s (1987) exclusively emotional conceptualization of empathy. He defined empathy as an other-oriented emotional response elicited by, and congruent with, the perceived welfare of a person in need. We adopted this definition, but extended it to include animals as well as people. Empathy, for Batson, includes feelings of sympathy, compassion, tenderness, and the like.” (p370)

“The tendency for men to express more empathy for humans than for animals is consistent with Westbury and Neumann (2008), who found that people express more empathy for humans as opposed to animal targets.” (p373)

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