Science Seat: Where morals come from | ISO Mental Health & Wellness |

By Kelly Murray, CNN  The Science Seat 


CNN: Tell us more about the origins of empathy.


De Waal: We think that the origin of empathy, in the mammals at least, has to do with maternal care. So a female, whether you’re a mouse or an elephant, you need to pay attention to your offspring, you need to react to their emotions when they’re cold, or in danger, or hungry, and that’s where we think the sensitivity to others’ emotions come from.


That also explains why empathy is more developed in females than males, which is true in many animals, and it’s true for humans, and it explains the role of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a maternal hormone. If you spray oxytocin into the nostrils of men and women, you get more empathic (empathetic) reactions from them,  and so the general thinking about empathy is that it started in the mammals with maternal care, and then from there it spread to other relationships.  So men can definitely have empathy, but they on average have a little bit less of it than women.


CNN: By empathy, you mean that they feel each others’ pain?


Via Edwin Rutsch