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Nonhuman empathy

Jason Ebaugh ebau0002 at tc.umn.SPAMNOT.edu
Wed Feb 10 14:32:52 EST 1999

"Sergio Navega" <snavega at ibm.net> wrote:

It is very, very tempting to enter into a discussion about this and
challenge some of the assumptions of the last post. I will not do this
however, for two reasons. First because the verdict is not out yet on
nonhuman empathy therefore energy is better spent finding an answer
rather than arguing for possible answers which are not yet properly
supported. It will take research. Second, I feel that my education has
holes yet in this area and I do not wish to make bold statements in
areas I have not had sufficent course work in. 
What I will say is that the statement " No, thats only a reaction to a
stimulus percieved as dangerous" is just ideology and has as little
backing as my assertiont that my turtle understoood that I, like him
"see". Classical Behaviorism has been thrown out as applied to humans,
but we have much work to do in weeding out its fallicies with other

>No, that's not empathy, that's only a reaction to a stimulus perceived
>as dangerous. Empathy is a different sort of thing. What we mean by
>empathy is a much rarer behavior. It seems to happen to bonobos, a
>kind of chimpanzee, able to use symbols to communicate (see Sue
>Savage-Rumbaugh's book about Kanzi). In an experiment, a man is put
>in front of a bonobo chimp. Then suddenly, the adult looks to the
>ceiling, pretending having seen something strange.

>Impressively, the bonobo also looks at the ceiling, trying to see
>what that strange thing is. This not only reveal the amazing perceptive
>abilities of the bonobos but also its empathetic abilities
>(recognizing the human's intention in looking for something strange).

>Now try to do this with your dog. The result will be no recognition,
>showing that dogs (as with most other animals) do not have enough
>"brain machinery" to present this kind of behavior.

>Sergio Navega.

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