Rat and ant rescues ‘don’t show empathy’

(Phys.org) — Studies of how rats and ants rescue other members of their species do not prove that animals other than humans have empathy, according to a team led by Oxford University scientists.


‘Empathy has been proposed as the motivation behind the sort of ‘pro-social’ rescue behaviour in which one individual tries to free another,’ said Professor Alex Kacelnik of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, lead author of the article, ‘however, the reproductive benefits of this kind of behaviour are relatively well understood as, in nature, they are helping individuals to which they are likely to be genetically related or whose survival is otherwise beneficial to the actor. ‘To prove empathy any experiment must show an individual understands another’s feelings and is driven by the psychological goal of improving another’s wellbeing. Our view is that, so far, there is no proof of this outside of humans.’