Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hugs go way back in evolution

Charles Q. Choi writes in Scientific American: Chimpanzees may comfort others in distress in ways very similar to how people do, according to what may be the largest study of consolation in animals by far. The new findings in our closest living relatives could help shed light on the roots of empathy in humans. ...

To better understand how empathy might have evolved in our lineage, animal behaviorist Teresa Romero of Emory University and her colleagues studied roughly 30 chimpanzees housed outdoors at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Over a span of eight years they documented cases where uninvolved bystanders offered comfort to recent victims of aggression. Whereas most studies on animal consolation typically involve looking into a few hundred cases of conflicts and their aftermaths, "ours is based on an analysis of about 3,000 cases," Romero says.

Read the full Scientific American article, and see the full details about the Emory study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Photo, above, by Frans de Waal shows a young chimpanzee consoling an adult male that just lost a fight.

The biology of shared laughter and emotion
The best zoo drama, bar none
Inside the chimpanzee brain

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