Primatologist Frans de Waal on the Science of Cooperation and Empathy

I had also documented what I called “chimpanzees consolation,” where one individual is distressed and others come over and groom and kiss and those kind of things, and I never made much of that until I went to a lecture by Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, who explained how she studied empathy in children.

She would ask a family member to cry and say, “I’m sick,” and cough, and see how young children would react. The young children would touch them and stroke them and kiss them.

Zahn-Waxler called that an expression
of “empathy,” or “sympathetic concern.”

And I said, “If that’s empathy, then I see lots of empathy in my chimpanzees.” I had never attached that label to it, but then I got interested in that side of it.