Empathy is often considered a “human” feeling. And yet, it is present in the behavior specific to animal species.
Are animals endowed with empathy?
In some animals, empathy is a well-behaved behavior. For example, when a vole feels anguish, members of his family lick it to provide comfort. And this is just one of the many examples that prove to us that we are not the only ones to feel empathy for our peers. In the animal world, competition is not the only behavior
that we observe.
For a long time, scientists and animal specialists thought that animals were motivated solely by motivations. They called them “purely selfish”. In reality, empathy helps to consolidate the relationships that exist between social species, and to maintain them. And the latest discoveries upset our vision of the animal world: empathy is not a human feeling!
Empathy, a genetic behavior
Empathic behaviors in the animal world are largely related to the neurotransmitter oxytocin. The mammalian brain naturally produces this neurotransmitter. And it promotes the creation of the social link between several individuals of a species. The molecule we are talking about here is also related to the maternal instinct that we are used to observing in some mammals, as well as in birds.
Indeed, a chicken whose chick shows signs of distress accentuates his vigilance and vocalization. Animal scientists now say that similar hormones punctuate the behavior of all vertebrates. And some scientists agree that empathy is a more than obvious sign of animal intelligence. We continue to make important discoveries every day about the world around us and its people. And they still have a lot to reveal to us.