Challenges in the comparative study of empathy and related phenomena in animals

J. E. C. Adriaense, S. E. Koski, L. Huber, C. Lamm

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

The aim of this review is to discuss recent arguments and findings in the comparative study of empathy. Based on a multidisciplinary approach including psychology and ethology, we review the non-human animal literature concerning theoretical frameworks, methodology, and research outcomes. One specific objective is to highlight discrepancies between theory and empirical findings, and to discuss ambiguities present in current data and their interpretation. In particular, we focus on emotional contagion and its experimental investigation, and on consolation and targeted helping as measures for sympathy. Additionally, we address the feasibility of comparing across species with behavioural data alone. One main conclusion of our review is that animal research on empathy still faces the challenge of closing the gap between theoretical concepts and empirical evidence. To advance our knowledge, we propose to focus more on the emotional basis of empathy, rather than on possibly ambiguous behavioural indicators, and we provide suggestions to overcome the limitations of previous research
Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume112
Pages (from-to)62-82
Number of pages21
ISSN0149-7634
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2020
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Fields of Science

  • Comparative research
  • Empathy
  • Affect
  • Emotions
  • Animal
  • Emotional contagion
  • Consolation
  • Sympathy
  • Prosociality
  • DOGS CANIS-FAMILIARIS
  • POSTCONFLICT 3RD-PARTY AFFILIATION
  • POST-CONFLICT 3RD-PARTY
  • EMOTIONAL CONTAGION
  • PERSPECTIVE-TAKING
  • PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR
  • COGNITIVE BIAS
  • FACIAL MIMICRY
  • HEMISPHERIC-SPECIALIZATION
  • SYMPATHETIC CONCERN
  • 5143 Social and cultural anthropology
  • 5144 Social psychology

Cite this