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Human-to-Animal Similarity and Participant Mood Influence Punishment Recommendations for Animal Abusers

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Studies of observer responses to human-to-human abuse have found that both an observer's mood and the similarity of the victim to the observer affect the observer's desire to help the victim and punish the offender. The present study examined the extent to which similarity and mood also shape observer responses to human-to-animal abuse.We first manipulated participants' mood by giving non-contingent feedback on a hidden word task (positive, negative, or no feedback). Participants then read a scenario describing an instance of animal abuse (using four different specific kinds of animals and six general species categories). Results showed that participants in a better mood recommended harsher punishment for the offender.They also recommended harsher punishment for the abuse of animals more similar to humans. Similarity and mood interacted on fine recommendationsmdash;better mood accentuated the similarity effect. Empathy for an animal positively correlated with punishment recommendations for the offender. The study discusses directions for future research and theory development.


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