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His message will have considerable resonance for many readers. A capuchin monkey reaches through an armhole to choose between two differently marked pieces of pipe that can be exchanged for food. Capuchins usually select the prosocial token. De Waal has long been a critic of the notion that evolution drives us and our primate relatives to express the darker sides of our natures.

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He has been impatient with colleagues who are fixated on the struggle for existence and give short shrift to the need for cooperation and accommodation among interdependent animals that live in groups. Thus, while many primatologists have focused on evolutionary pressures that generate high levels of competition and conflicts within a group, de Waal has emphasized the importance of the mechanisms that primates use to defuse tension, resolve conflicts and repair the damage caused by them. Emphasizing the continuity in empathic concern across species, he speculates that empathy may be as old as maternal care itself.

His reasoning is partly based on the selective advantages that he thinks empathy would have provided for mothers. Females who were sensitive to, and able to anticipate, the needs of their developing offspring would have been more successful mothers than those who were less responsive, he argues.

After all, it might also have been useful for mammalian males to have the capacity to lactate, because in some circumstances males who could provide nourishment for their young might have had greater reproductive success than those who lacked this capacity.


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Nevertheless, except under rare specific conditions, mammalian males do not lactate. Even though de Waal is firmly convinced that empathy is old and is widespread among mammals, not everyone agrees; there is a lively debate about these matters in the literature. Preston and de Waal were the first to refer to as cognitive empathy— the ability to understand the feelings of others and to appreciate the distinction between their feelings and our own.

Cognitive empathy is what allows us to understand the anguish of a mother whose child is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The practical problem is that in any particular case it can be difficult to distinguish between emotional contagion and more elaborate forms of empathy. But feeling the same way as someone else is not the same thing as knowing how that person will want to be treated.

To take care of your partner, you need to know whether he or she likes to be coddled when sick or prefers being left alone with a good book. This means that if we want to understand the capacity that other animals have for compassion, we have to figure out what is going on in their heads. Carefully designed experiments have given us some insight into what animals know about the minds of others.

For example, Robert Seyfarth and Dorothy Cheney conducted an experiment in which female macaques learned that a box in their enclosure contained a frightening stimulus a fake snake. Although the mothers were frightened when they came upon the snake and avoided the box afterward, they did not react when their infants approached the box, and they did not warn the infants of the danger the snake presumably represented. Based on these findings, Cheney and Seyfarth concluded that the mothers were unaware that their own knowledge differed from the knowledge of their offspring. Recent searches Clear All.

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Good Natured

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    Empathy’s purity, sympathy’s complexities; De Waal, Darwin and Adam Smith

    Walmart Book Format: Paperback. Add to List. Add to Registry. Frans de Waal, a Dutch-born zoologist specializing in primate behavior, takes on those who have declared ethics uniquely human. Making a compelling case for morality grounded in biology, he shows that ethical behavior in humans and animals alike is as much a matter of evolution as any other trait. Order by , and we can deliver your NextDay items by.

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    Frans de Waal. Walmart Book Format: Paperback. Add to List. Add to Registry. Frans de Waal, a Dutch-born zoologist specializing in primate behavior, takes on those who have declared ethics uniquely human. Making a compelling case for morality grounded in biology, he shows that ethical behavior in humans and animals alike is as much a matter of evolution as any other trait.

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    Michael Jackson - Human Nature (Live At Wembley July 16, 1988 (Stereo))

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