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More on empathy in chimpanzees

Posted by Chapouthier on 11 Apr 2011 at 07:04 GMT

Since several years, Frans De Waal’s group have provided extremely interesting evidences relating human behaviour to the behaviour of our nearest cousins, the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In the present paper, the authors show in chimpanzees, bias between “ingroup” and “outgroup” empathy similar to that found in humans. Indeed humans tend to show more empathy towards others seen as similar to themselves (ingroup subjects) compared to others perceived as different (outgroup subjects). Here the authors used contagious yawning as a tool for measuring empathy in chimpanzees. They found that chimpanzees yawned more when watching videos of familiar chimpanzees yawning than with videos of familiar chimpanzees not yawning (controls) and non familiar chimpanzees yawning, thus “demonstrating an ingroup-outgroup bias in contagious yawning”. This interesting work shows how near our emotional behaviour can be to that of our cousin chimpanzees.

No competing interests declared.