Mice show evidence of empathy

Adults become more sensitive to pain after watching other mice in pain, the first sign of empathy in non-primate mammals

Ishani Ganguli
Jun 29, 2006
Mice who watch their peers in pain are more sensitive to it themselves, Canadian researchers report this week in Science -- the first evidence of empathy between adult, non-primate mammals.There is an "increasingly popular" view that this kind of basic, pre-cognitive response to social cues may be present in all mammals, said Frans de Waal at Emory University and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, who did not participate in the study. "This "highly significant [paper]...confirms that empathy is an ancient capacity," he told The Scientist in an Email. The response mice showed to their peers in pain is an example of emotional contagion, according to senior author Jeffrey Mogil. (The best known example found in both humans and chimpanzees is the contagious yawn.) In higher primates, emotional contagion can progress to the more complex behaviors commonly associated with the term empathy, such as when a human identifies with...