What Do Elephants, Rats, and Ravens Have in Common? Empathy.

We are all familiar with the feeling of empathy. We feel sad when our friends and family are sad, and we share their happiness when they are happy. But is empathy a trait unique to humans?

Empathy in animals and humans, as defined by the scientists who study it, “refers to situations in which the subject has a similar emotional state to an object as a result of the perception of the object’s situation or predicament… and the emotional state remains object-focused rather than self-focused.”[1] In other words, one animal recognizes another’s state of mind, and not only mirrors that state, but remains focused on the other individual and may even try to act in a helpful manner.

So, how do we use science to learn about empathy in animals?

A closer look at studies in elephants, rats, and ravens will help us to understand how empathy may have been used by other species long before humans had even given it a name.


by  Jessica Bridgers