Do Insects Have Emotions and Empathy?

Do insects have empathy?
As we mentioned earlier, a second aspect of emotions is the expression of emotional behavior that allows other individuals to be aware of our emotions and respond to them. As such, in order to detect and understand those emotions we have the ability to empathize and respond in kind.

In an experiment hot off the press, woodlice have shown empathic-like behavior. The researchers demonstrated that calm woodlice reduced their more excited neighbors causing them to also become calm.

One can argue that this is simply the mimicking of behaviors, as opposed to recognizing and then matching emotions. Again however, remember that if one dog barks in what we interpret as an upset nervous manner, and causes the other dog to do the same, we would tend to automatically assume that the first dog passed on its emotion to the second one if they adopt the same postures and emotional behavior. Moreover, a study published this year quite clearly stated that emotional contagion was observed in pigs as a form of empathy.

by Carla Clark, PhD