It is said that empathy — placing ourselves in another’s “shoes” and feeling what another feels — is what uniquely makes us human.
Indeed, even newborn babies display a primitive form of empathy when they cry, upon hearing another baby cry. Sociobiologists call that “global empathy.”
A defining attribute of psychopaths — as well as narcissists — is their lack of empathy, which explains their using others for their own ends and aggrandizement.
There is mounting evidence, however, that empathy is not so uniquely human after all. Instead, scientists are discovering that many animals also display empathy. As examples (source):
1. Elephants are known to return to the “graveyard” of a deceased elephant and caress the bones with their trunks. The latest discovery, reported by Discovery, is that Asian elephants show concern for another elephant that is distressed by making a soft, sweet “chirp” sound and caressing the suffering elephant with their trunks, even inserting the trunk into the other’s mouth.
2. Crows and ravens are highly intelligent birds. Researchers at the Konrad Lorenz Research Station in Austria found that the birds comfort others who are stressed from a fight by preening and sitting next to the distressed bird so their bodies are touching.
3. Scrub jays have “funerals” for deceased friends, according to research by the University of California, Davis. They fly over the dead body, wailing and screeching, which may be a sign of grief.
4. Mice have been shown to detect pain in other mice and will console their family and friends. Garet Lahvis, an assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University, said: “Mice are capable of a more complex form of empathy than we ever believed possible.”
5. Rats help each other out with no prospect of a reward, according to Washington State University. They also giggle when tickled.
6. Gorillas not only care for each other but have even been seen to care for dolls.
7. Orangutans are so empathic that they take on the moods of other orangutans, according to University of Portsmouth scientists. When one orangutan laughs, others often join in.
See these other examples of animal empathy and kindness:
- Cute dog comforts owner with potatoes and other gifts
- Animal altruism: Turtle lends a helping hand to another
- Dog found help for friend stuck for a week in a ravine
- Monkey revives electrocuted friend
- Cat Saved After Fire Comforts Other Animals On The Road To Recovery
- Lynx in zoo shares food and friendship with homeless kitten