Inter-human and animal-directed empathy: A test for evolutionary biases in empathetic responding

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Prguda, Emina
Neurnann, David L
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2014
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Abstract

Empathy is facilitated by the perceived similarity between the object and subject. Conversely, nurturancehas been suggested to influence empathy, in that humans have an ability to empathise with non-kin ina similar way as with their own offspring when certain characteristics (e.g., childlikeness) are present.To examine the combined effects of similarity and nurturance, participants (n = 69) were presented withimages of infant and adult human and wild non-human animals (non-human primates, quadruped wildmammals, and wild birds) depicted in negative, victimising situations. Stronger phasic skin conductanceresponses and subjective ratings of empathy and arousal were observed for phylogenetically similarspecies. Subjective empathy and arousal ratings were greater for human infants but this did not extendto the non-human infants. Heart rate was lower during infant than adult stimuli presentations, however,the magnitude of change resembled that previously reported for neutral stimuli presentations. Althougha similarity effect is widely acknowledged in the literature, the present findings point to the importanceof taking into account both the age and the level of similarity with the target to gain a fuller understandingof empathy towards others of our own and different species.

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Behavioural Processes

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108

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Pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences

Cognitive and computational psychology

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