Measuring Empathic Responses in Animals

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This literature review examines past studies on empathy in animals. It discusses evidence for empathy in non-human primates, other mammals, and birds. The authors argue that researchers need to develop a more nuanced method of measuring empathy in non-human animals.

Article Abstract:
“Domestic animals may be frequently exposed to situations in which they witness the distress or pain of conspecifics and the extent to which they are affected by this will depend on their capacity for empathy. Empathy encompasses two partially distinct sets of processes concerned with the emotional and cognitive systems. The term, empathy, is therefore used to describe both relatively simple processes, such as physiological and behavioural matching; and more complex interactions between emotional and cognitive perspective taking systems. Most previous attempts to measure empathic responsiveness in animals have not distinguished between responses primarily relevant to the situation of the observer and those primarily relevant to the situation of the conspecific.