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Empathy of Animals


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Study of Attitude, Empathy, and Human Uniqueness of Emotion in Animals


This correlational study was conducted to determine and explore the relationships between empathy, attitudes towards animals, and beliefs about human uniqueness of emotion. This was a quasi- experimental because we studied man versus women and also pet owners versus non-pet owners. We expected to find a positive correlation between the empathy and AAS score. While also exploring the relationships between the HUES and empathy or AAS score. We predicted that women would have higher empathy and AAS scores than men as well as pet owners having higher AAS scores than non- pet owners. This study was conducted in New York, where 60 voluntary participants completed surveys. The results of the study illustrated and provided a statistically significant positive correlation between scores on the E-Scale and the AAS and a significant negative correlation between scores on the E-Scale and HUES and well as between the AAS and the HUES. There was also a significant gender difference in AAS scores with women having more positive attitudes toward animals compared to men. However, there was no significant gender difference in HUES scores. Similarly, there were significant effects of pet ownership on both E-Scale scores and on AAS scores. Specifically, pet owners had higher levels of empathy and also had more positive attitudes toward animals compared to non-pet owners. There was no significant effect of pet ownership on HUES scores.

Study of Attitude, Empathy, and Human Uniqueness of Emotion in Animals Before reviewing important research information that we have found, it is important to review other theories and expert findings that have related to our study and to which our research was built. Researchers have studied animal behavior in recent years with context to their attitudes, empathy and human like characteristics. It is important to know that this research is very interesting and can go a long way in showing how pet ownership is related or different among humans. Taylor & Signal (2005) studied college students in Australia determining the correlation between men and women and also between pet owners and non-pet owners. A correlational study using surveys was given, using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index as well as the Animal Attitude Scale. Researchers predicted that people who have more positive attitudes towards animals would have higher empathy levels. They also expected that gender difference would influence the companionship of animal ownership (Taylor & Signal, 2005). Taylor & Signal (2005) found that there was a positive correlation between EC subscale of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) and the Animal Attitude Scale (AAS), but only in females. Related to this, females also had a higher empathy levels and more positive attitudes towards animals than men. Current owners of companion animals had higher Animal Attitude Scale Scores than those of non-pet owners (2005). As compared to Taylor & Signal (2005), Henry (2006), a year later studied the attitude of animals and the history it had on negative home environment and animal abuse participation. Henry (2006) used a correlational study conducted in the United States of America in Denver, Colorado using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) and the Attitude Towards Treatment of Animal Scale (ATTAS). The study used participants from an undergraduate PSYC 100 class. The students filled out numerous surveys including the IRI and ATTAS. The experiment was comparing men and women as did Taylor & Signal (2005) and animal abusers versus non-animal abusers. Henry (2006) predicted that empathy would be correlated with sensitivity to treatment of animals. Animal abuse will be correlated with negative home environment as well as empathy and sensitivity to treatment of animals will differ between abusers and non-abusers. Furthermore, individual’s empathy levels and animal attitudes will mediate the relationship between home environment and animal abuse. Finally, participants with early onset animal abuse will have the lowest empathy and animal sensitivity levels and the highest levels of negative home environment. After surveys were conducted and finalized, research showed a positive correlation between the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) and the Attitude Towards Treatment of Animals Scale (AATAS) (Henry, 2006). In conclusion to this result it showed that women had a higher IRI score than men, as did the Taylor & Signal (2005) study. Another result showed that men with a high history of sexual abuse were more likely to abuse animals; especially those who had early onset of sexual abuse. Low ATTAS scores, high IRI scores and high sex abuse scores all were independently related to animal abuse. Along the lines of sex abuse, participants with early onset animal abuse had the lowest ATTAS scores, but showed no difference in empathy and highest levels of sex abuse. As compared to the Henry (2006) study, Taylor & Signal (2005) both found a positive correlation between attitudes regarding animal and human-human empathy.
In continuation of empathy in animals and animal abuse, Daly & Suggs (2010) reviewed teacher’s experiences with education and the effects of animals in the classroom related to empathy. Data was collected from 75 elementary school classroom teachers, which revealed the way in which animals were used in their teaching practices in the classroom. This included their views on some of the advantages of using pets in the classroom. Data was collected both quantitative and qualitative. The majority of teachers surveyed believed that the use of live pets in the classroom contributed positively to increasing empathy, as well as socio-emotional development in students (Daly & Suggs, 2010).
A correlational study was used to explore relationships between empathy, attitudes towards animals, and beliefs about human uniqueness of emotions where men and women were compared as well as pet owners and non-pet owners. As compared to the Taylor & Signal (2005), Henry (2006) and Daly and Suggs (2010), this study was given in Rochester, New York and was sampled with a combination of family, friends and college students. Samples were collected using surveys. The AAS was used which was similar to the Taylor & Signal (2005) study but differed from the Henry (2006) and Daly and Suggs (2010). This study also added a scale to measure beliefs about human uniqueness of emotions, which were the HUES scores. Furthermore we used a different empathy scale than the other study’s that was called the E-scale. By using different measures of empathy it would contribute to construct validity. It also uses a different subset of population that will determine if previous findings of generalization make a difference. The study also adds into the mix at looking at relationships between empathy, animal attitudes and a brand new variable characterized as the beliefs about human uniqueness of emotion. If the results that are found are similar to previous studies, it will increase our confidence in conclusions about the relationship between empathy and attitudes towards animals. Conducting this study we expect to find a positive correlation between empathy and AAS scores. Along with empathy and AAS scores HUES scores are being explored hoping to correlate with either empathy or AAS scores. Research is also hoping to show that women will have higher empathy scores and higher AAS scores towards animals then men, which leads to the gender differences in HUES scores. Finally, pet owners will have higher AAS scores than non-owners that explain pet ownership, the IRI and HUES scores.

Subjects and Participants The sample was obtained by giving a total of five survey packets, which included three surveys, the E-Scale, AAS and HUES score scale to participants of choice within a seven-day period. The surveys were given to the researchers in a St. John Fisher College classroom in the psychology department wing by a professor who has their doctorate in psychology. A total of 60 participants (32 women and 28 men) completed the surveys. Participants ranged from 17 to 71 years of age (M = 27.88, SD = 14.6). The sample included 42 participants who were pet owners and 18 participants who were not pet owners. Of the participants who owned pets, 12 participants owned a cat, 30 participants owned a dog, and 8 participants owned some other type of pet. The surveys were completed with little to no direction from the researcher and were then handed back once completed and kept anonymous. The research gave the survey to the participant in any location they were at the present time that they were asked to participate.
Materials and Procedures The materials consisted of three single sheets of white printer paper that had three surveys printed on them separately. The surveys were given to randomly selected participants that were selected by the researcher. The three surveys were the E-Scale, the AAS scale and the HUES scale. The subjects were all surveyed in Rochester, New York during a seven-day period in October. Subjects simply filled out the three surveys and handed them back to the participant to complete their task. A small demographic questionnaire was on the top of the first survey for the subjects to complete.
Scores on the E-Scale ranged from 29 to 91 (M = 60.3, SD = 12.6), scores on the AAS ranged from 55 to 114 (M = 87.8, SD = 13.2), and scores on the HUES ranged from 8 to 52 (M = 25.5, SD = 9.3). There was a statistically significant positive correlation between scores on the E-Scale and the AAS (r = 0.467, N = 60, p = 0.000), and significant negative correlations between scores on the E-Scale and the HUES (r = -0.435, N = 60, p = 0.001) and between scores on the AAS and the HUES (r = -0.310, N = 60, p = 0.016). Mean scores on the E-Scale, AAS and HUES as a function of gender and pet ownership are presented in Table 1. The effects of gender and pet ownership on attitudes toward animals, empathy levels, and beliefs about the uniqueness of human emotions were evaluated using one-way ANOVAs with alpha levels set at .05. Results indicated a significant gender difference in E-Scale scores, F (1, 58) = 5.63, p = .021, with women having higher empathy levels compared to men. There was also a significant gender difference in AAS scores, F (1, 58) = 10.85, p = .002, with women having more positive attitudes toward animals compared to men. However, there was no significant gender difference in HUES scores. Similarly, there were significant effects of pet ownership on both E-Scale scores, F (1, 58) = 5.88, p = .018, and on AAS scores, F (1, 58) = 4.39, p = .040. Specifically, pet owners had higher levels of empathy and also had more positive attitudes toward animals compared to people who had never owned pets. There was no significant effect of pet ownership on HUES scores. Discussion
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between empathy, animal attitudes and beliefs about human uniqueness of emotions. Our results clearly supported our hypothesis of there being a positive correlation between empathy and the AAS score. It also supports the relationships between HUES scores and empathy and AAS scores. People believed that emotions are unique to humans and that animals do not share similar emotions, this was supported with a negative correlation between the two. Evidence also supported that women had higher empathy and AAS scores then men as well as when exploring HUES scores. To conclude, the final hypothesis that was supported was pet owners had higher AAS scores than non-owners and when exploring IRI and HUES scores. While using the E-Scale there was positive correlation between empathy and attitudes towards animals, which was similar to Taylor & Signal (2005) and Henry (2006). In the most recent study the E-scale was used which was different from previous studies. This helped increase validity of the construct and operational definitions. The AAS scale used was similar to the Taylor & Signal (2005) study was but differed from the Henry (2006) study, which used the ATTAS scale. With the use of the AAS scale in both our study and in Taylor & Signal (2006), it allowed for replication of the Taylor & Signal (2006) findings and increase confidence in our conclusions. With our study there was a different sample size and sample population which helped increase generalizability. In our study we researched the correlations between the HUES scores and the AAS scores, which evidently showed a significant correlation. Also, the research between HUES scores and E-Scale scores also showed a significant correlation. Prior to this, no other studies have explored these relationships. We found that people who scored high on the HUES scale that believe emotions are only unique to humans had more low scores on both the E-Scale of lower empathy level and the AAS scale which showed more negative attitudes towards animals. This study also compared results for gender and pet ownership. In our study women had both higher E-scale scores and higher AAS scores compared to men, but also found no gender differences in HUES scores. Finally we found that current pet owners had both a higher E-scale scores and higher AAS scores compared to people who did not currently own a pet. Following this, pet ownership did not affect HUES scores.

Daly, B., Suggs, S. (2010). Teachers' experiences with humane education and animals in the elementary classroom: Implications for empathy development, Journal of Moral Education, 39:1, 101-112
Henry, C. (2006). Empathy, home environment, and attitudes towards animals in relation to animal abuse. Anthrozoos, 19 (1), 17-29.
Herzog, H.A., Betchart, N.S, & Pittman, R. (1991). Gender, sex role identity and attitudes toward animals. Anthrozoos, 4, 184-191. doi: 10.1037/t00344-000
Leibetseder M., Laireiter, A-R., & Köller, T. (2007). Structural analysis of the E-scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 547–561. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2006.08.002
Rothgerber, H. (2013). A meaty matter. Pet diet and the vegetarian's dilemma. Appetite, 68, 76-82. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2013.04.012
Taylor, N., Signal, T.D. (2005). Empathy and attitudes to animals. Anthrozoos, 18 (1), 18-25.

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