Sign of empathy: Bonobos comfort friends in distress

Bonobos display consolation behavior, a sign of sensitivity to the emotions of others and the ability to take the perspective of another.


Comforting a friend or relative in distress may be a more hard-wired behavior than previously thought, according to a new study of bonobos, which are great apes known for their empathy and close relation to humans and chimpanzees. This provides key evolutionary insight into how critical social skills may develop in humans. The results were published by the journal PLOS One.


Researchers from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, observed juvenile bonobos at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo engaging in consolation behavior more than their adult counterparts. Juvenile bonobos (3 to 7 years old) are equivalent in age to preschool or elementary school-aged children.


By Lisa Newbern