Wanderings — The Socio-biology of Empathy

Here’s a great article on the socio-biology of empathy and the roots of moral behavior in animals.

The NY Times article begins:

“Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.

Biologists argue that these and other social behaviors are the precursors of human morality.”

We’ve all come across two or three dead squirrels or possums in close proximity on the road. As though they were family trying to help each other after one of them got hit. And haven’t you seen a dead squirrel with another squirrel almost getting hit because it seems to be hanging around the body?

Animal compassion doesn’t make me wonder, as it wouldn’t anyone who shares their lives consciously with animals, but I hope it does the scientists who have the power to change the general perception.

5 thoughts on “Wanderings — The Socio-biology of Empathy”

  1. It’s pretty clear that our doggies know when someone is sad. Don’t know so much about avoiding food if it gives one of us electric shocks :)

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  2. I remember reading about an experiment with humans instructed to apply electrical shocks to other humans. They did it when the person giving the orders gave the orders with enough authority.

    I do love it when scientists find a way to “prove” what we already know about animal’s emotions.

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  3. I think anyone who’s been crying, and has been approached by their dog with a “What’s wrong? How can I make you happy?” face, is a believer in animal compassion. How could you not???

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  4. Great topic. More people should realize that WE are also animals and as such should respect all the other animals on this planet with whom we share space. It is easy to forget when you are at the top of the food chain I guess :)

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