Whether animals have the ability to show empathy similar to humans has been the subject for debate for many years. Matthew Campbell and Frans de Waal, who work at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, set about to test this under controlled conditions.
Research undertaken by the two found that chimpanzees can empathise with humans, even if the human is unfamiliar to them. The team explain, “Chimpanzees showed that the ability to connect with unfamiliar individuals is not unique to humans.” However, the chimpanzees did not empathise with baboons, a species that was unknown to the chimps in the experiment.
Contagious yawning was key in the study, as with this mimicked action the team were able to measure how empathetic the chimps were – the more yawns, the greater the level of empathy.
Abstract: Human empathy can extend to strangers and even other species, but it is unknown whether non-humans are similarly broad in their empathic responses.
We explored the breadth and
flexibility of empathy in chimpanzees,
a close relative of humans.
We used contagious yawning to measure involuntary empathy and showed chimpanzees videos of familiar humans, unfamiliar humans and gelada baboons (an unfamiliar species). We tested whether each class of stimuli elicited contagion by comparing the effect of yawn and control videos. After including previous data on the response to ingroup and outgroup chimpanzees, we found that familiar and unfamiliar humans elicited contagion equal to that of ingroup chimpanzees.
Gelada baboons did not elicit contagion, and the response to them was equal to that of outgroup chimpanzees. However, the chimpanzees watched the outgroup chimpanzee videos more than any other. The combination of high interest and low contagion may stem from hostility towards unfamiliar chimpanzees, which may interfere with an empathic response.
Overall, chimpanzees showed flexibility in that they formed an empathic connection with a different species, including unknown members of that species. These results imply that human empathic flexibility is shared with related species.
Host Charity Nebbe talked with Pruetz to find out more about the way these primates develop and use tools, and how their cultures form.
She learns about a time when the chimpanzees helped Pruetz navigate a raging wildfire. Pruetz also shares a story about the rescue of a baby chimpanzee, and the remarkable empathy she says was shown to the baby and mother by a young chimpanzee named Mike.
A recent study reveals unexpected similarities between the emotional lives of human and ape kids—bound together by the quality of parenting.
Their results, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal strong similarities between the emotional development of bonobos and that of human children—especially about the relationship between mothering, emotional regulation, and empathy for others.
...study confirmed that emotion regulation is an essential part of empathy, in two primates who share 99 percent of the same DNA: bonobos and humans. =========
Anyone who's had MRI knows how hard it is to lie motionless. But the dogs that participated in this brain-scanning experiment aced the test. Maybe the treats did it.
"When you looked at how dogs respond to emotional cues in sounds, it's very similar to how humans respond," Andics says. "It's in the same brain region ... and is stronger with positive vocalizations than negative ones."
Is the mirror system key to how social understanding is created in the brain?
Researchers from Denmark released a new study on Feb. 24 showing that specific brain cells called “mirror neurons” may help people interpret the actions they see other people perform.
Mirror neurons are thought to be
specialized brain cells that allow
you to learn and empathize by
observing the actions
of another person.
The new study from Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science. The research was led by postdoctoral research fellow John Michael.
The evidence for empathy in elephants seems overwhelming, so can we now draw on our own empathetic nature to end their slaughter?
Elephants, we all know, are in peril. We humans are waging what amounts to a war against them because they have something we want and cannot make on our own: ivory.
Earlier this month, we learned that the West African country of Gabon has lost more than half its elephants—11,000—in the last ten years alone.
One Example After Another
But why did it take an experiment? Research on elephants is full of examples of the animals apparently behaving empathetically—recognizing and responding to another elephant's pain or problem. Often, they even make heroic efforts to assist one another.
According to Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, researchers at Goldsmiths College in London, pet dogs show a submissive or calm behavior with a person in distress — even someone they don’t know. This suggests that canines have a greater empathy or understanding of human emotions than otherwise believed.
Marc Bekoff, author of “The Emotional Lives of Animals,” agrees. “Science has discovered a lot about the inner lives of diverse species,” he said. “We now know that animals have a point of view and that they experience deep feelings.”
Perhaps this special quality of empathy might explain why the venues for service dogs keeps expanding.
Researchers find first evidence that elephants reassure others in distress.
Asian elephants console and reassure one another when in distress through touch and vocalisation.For the first time, researchers have discovered evidence showing how the world's largest land mammals interact and build social relationships in such a way.
Joshua Plotnik, from Emory University in Atlanta, explained that consolation behaviour is rare in the animal kingdom, with previous studies showing it in a limited number of species, including canines, great apes and certain corvids.
"For centuries, people have observed that elephants seem to be highly intelligent and empathic animals, but as scientists we need to actually test it,"
Rats express empathy in ways that are familiar to humans.
There are always "surprises" emerging from studies of the cognitive, emotional, and moral lives of nonhuman animals (animals) and among the discoveries that received a good deal of attention was detailed research published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals that showed that chickens, mice and rats displayed empathy." Empathic Rats and Ravishing Ravens" has some strong examples, and in that essay I noted how over the past few years scientists have learned much about the moral lives of animals. Now we know rats display this same empathy.
A new study suggests that rodents are far more altruistic than previously thought
The English language is not especially kind to rats. We say we "smell a rat" when something doesn't feel right, refer to stressful competition as the "rat race," and scorn traitors who "rat on" friends. But rats don't deserve their bad rap. According to a new study in the December 9 issue ofScience, rats are surprisingly selfless, consistently breaking friends out of cages—even if freeing their buddies means having to share coveted chocolate. It seems that empathy and self-sacrifice have a greater evolutionary legacy than anyone expected.
"The skin is the largest sensory organ in the body. Physical touch, in particular hugs, are extremely beneficial physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for both parties involved.
Hugging builds trust and secures a sense of safety. It builds self-esteem, relaxes muscles and releases tension. It boosts oxytocin and serotonin levels. It strengthens the immune system and balances the nervous system.
Energetically it teaches us to give and receive, showing us how love flows both ways, and the synergistic flow of energy back and forth between two people creates empathy and understanding."
Watch the video Virtual Cow Experiment Aims to Teach Empathy on Yahoo News . Experiments are underway at Stanford University to determine if immersive technology can result in more empathy for the environment. As AP's Haven Daley explains, the research uses the latest in virtual reality equipment. (Aug. 14)
Chimpanzees may show humanlike empathy, as evidenced by their contagious yawning.
Chimpanzees possess a flexible, humanlike sensitivity to the mental states of others, even strangers from another species, researchers suggest March 11 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Empathy’s roots go back at least to the common ancestor of humans and chimps, they say.
New findings show that chimpanzees exhibit flexibility in their empathy, just as humans do. This may help explain the evolution of how and when humans engage with others and choose to offer flexibility, and how we can do so more.
While it's been long known that human empathy can extend to family, friends, strangers and even other species, it has been unknown until now whether nonhumans are similarly broad in their empathic responses.
it has been unknown until now whether
nonhumans are similarly broad
in their empathic responses.
To answer this question, Campbell and de Waal used contagious yawning as a measure of involuntary empathy. According to Campbell, "Copying the facial expressions of others helps us to adopt and understand their current state."
When an elephant is in distress, scientists have found, nearby elephants offer it a reassuring touch to make it feel better.
Elephants are known to be highly social and intelligent. Now there is evidence that they engage in something that looks very much like a group hug when a fellow elephant is in distress.
looks very much like a group hug
when a fellow elephant is
Joshua Plotnick, who leads a conservation and education group called Think Elephants, and teaches conservation at Mahidol University in Thailand, studied elephants at a park in Chiang Rai Province in Thailand, to look for consolation behavior.
“Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) reassure others in distress”, Research paper author Dr. Joshua Plotnik.
J: Can you tell us a bit about the research you publish today?
JP: How animals resolve conflicts is an exciting area of research, and has been expanding ever since the first studies on it in chimpanzees by Frans de Waal and colleagues in the late 1970s. Usually, scientists study two forms of conflict resolution: reconciliation (which looks at how aggressors and victims “make up” after fights) and consolation (which looks at how uninvolved bystanders reassure the victims). Interestingly, reconciliation is relatively common in the animal kingdom, while consolation is relatively rare.
One hypothesis suggests the reason
for this is that consolation has
empathic underpinnings unique
to only a few species
in the animal kingdom.
One hypothesis suggests the reason for this is that consolation has empathic underpinnings unique to only a few species in the animal kingdom. To date, only the great apes, canines and corvids have shown consolation. Elephants make an interesting and unique test subject because they are well-known for their intelligence and social complexity (as well as acts of helping behavior and empathy), but much of the evidence for these capacities is anecdotal.
A new study examines how Asian elephants console one another in times of stress.
Elephants are capable of empathy,
a new study suggests.
The findings, published in the journal PeerJ, describe how the animals reassure one another by touching and talking to each other when in distress. The study involved studying the behavior of 26 captive elephants in Thailand over a period of one year. Since periods of distress can't be planned, researchers spent 30 to 180 minutes each day watching and recording the elephants’ behavior.
People often reflexively put their arm around someone else in distress and a new study from researchers at Emory University in the journal PeerJ has found that elephants also console each other in times of need.
The researchers also found that elephants often responded to the signals of other elephants by adopting a similar body or emotional state -
something known as an “emotional contagion”
which may be a sign of empathy.
The researchers noted that their study was limited by the fact that it was restricted to captive animals.
“This study is a first step,” Plotnik said. “I would like to see this consolation capacity demonstrated in wild populations as well.”
The recent experiment on rats is far from the first time that empathy has been seen in animals in laboratories. In one notoriously cruel experiment, macaque monkeys were given food only if they pulled a chain that electrically shocked another monkey. Nearly all the monkeys preferred to go hungry, and one macaque went without food for 12 days rather than cause pain to another. Monkeys who had previously been shocked were even more reluctant to pull the chain and subject another individual to such punishment. Mice and rats will also starve rather than hurt friends.
At one laboratory where PETA conducted an undercover investigation, video footage shows a small caged monkey tugging on the coat of a worker who was mercilessly beating another monkey. The caged monkey weighed no more than 15 pounds to the worker's 170, but he wanted to help his friend.
hysician compassion is expected by both patients and the medical profession and is central to effective clinical practice. Yet, despite the centrality of compassion to medical practice, most compassion-related research has focused on compassion fatigue, a specific type of burnout among health providers. Although such research has highlighted the phenomenon among clinicians, the focus on compassion fatigue has neglected the study of compassion itself. In this article, we present the Transactional Model of Physician Compassion.
After briefly critiquing the utility of the compassion fatigue concept, we offer a view in which physician compassion stems from the dynamic but interrelated influences of physician, patient and family, clinical situation, and environmental factors. Illuminating the specific aspects of physicians' intrapersonal, interpersonal, clinical, and professional functioning that may interfere with or enhance compassion allows for targeted interventions to promote compassion in both education and practice as well as to reduce the barriers that impede it.
Antonio T. Fernando III, MD, and Nathan S. Consedine, PhD Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand