Anecdotal reports suggest that people may be affected more by media coverage of animal rather than human-related abuse. Findings of the extant research regarding this apparent effect are mixed and omit certain key variables that may drive differential reactions to abuse disclosure. The goal of the current study was therefore to examine whether differences exist between individuals' emotional responses and pro-social behavior (reporting abuse) with respect to human (infant), or animal (puppy), directed abuse, and the effect of demographic and personality variables (including empathy and attitude to animals) on these responses. One hundred and twenty-three university students (104 females, 19 males) were presented with two scenarios (randomly presented to control for order effects) describing identical abuse situations but with two different "victims"—namely an infant or a puppy. Immediately after reading each scenario they were asked to indicate how much what the infant/puppy went through "bothered" them, the likelihood of their contacting the police should they know or discover the identity of the attacker, and complete the Profile of Mood States (Short Form). Results indicated that although in general participants were more bothered by the infant-than the puppy-abuse scenario, this was mediated by whether participants were current pet owners, and their level of pet attachment. Specifically, those most attached to their pet were significantly more bothered by the puppy abuse scenario than any other group. Personality and demographic characteristics were also found to relate to mood disturbance, bother rating, and willingness to contact police following each scenario.
- Animal abuse
- Interpersonal reactivity index
- Profile of moods states