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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Debbie Custance

 

Debbie Custance & Edwin Rutsch: Study on Dogs having Empathy for People in Distress

Debbie Custance is a lecturer at Goldsmiths College, Department of Psychology, London. She coauthored a study titled, 'Empathic-like responding by domestic dogs to distress in humans: An exploratory study'. 

The study tested how dogs respond to someone pretending to cry and be in distress.  The majority of dogs came over to the person crying in a way that seemed to express empathic concern.  "When the stranger pretended to cry, rather than approaching their usual source of comfort, their owner, dogs sniffed, nuzzled and licked the stranger instead.  The dogs’ pattern of response was behaviorally consistent with an expression of empathic concern..."

Sub Conference: Science and Animals & Nature

 

 

 

 

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Debbie Custance & Edwin Rutsch: Study - Dogs having Empathy for People in Distress

 
 

Transcripts

  • 00:00 Introduction

  • (transcription pending)

  • (Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)

 

 

 

30 May 2012 - Study: Empathic-like responding by domestic dogs to distress in humans: An exploratory study
"Empathy covers a range of phenomena from cognitive empathy involving metarepresentation to emotional contagion stemming from automatically triggered reflexes. An experimental protocol first used with human infants was adapted to investigate empathy in domestic dogs. Dogs oriented toward their owner or a stranger more often when the person was pretending to cry than when they were talking or humming. Observers, unaware of experimental hypotheses and the condition under which dogs were responding, more often categorized dogs’ approaches as submissive as opposed to alert, playful or calm during the crying condition. When the stranger pretended to cry, rather than approaching their usual source of comfort, their owner, dogs sniffed, nuzzled and licked the stranger instead. The dogs’ pattern of response was behaviorally consistent with an expression of empathic concern, but is most parsimoniously interpreted as emotional contagion coupled with a previous learning history in which they have been rewarded for approaching distressed human companions."



Many Articles written about this Study

 

2012-07-10 - Canine Empathy

Picture this. You are taking your dog for a typical neighborhood walk. All of a sudden, you trip over some uneven concrete on the pavement and fall flat on your face, twisting your ankle and remain lying there. Your dog instantly comes over to you and starts whimpering. In your pain, you glance up and he starts licking you.

 

2012-07-08 - Dogs demonstrate empathy to crying strangers

 Looking at long-held owner beliefs, a study suggests that dogs comforted crying strangers in ways similar to human infants....  In the study, both Mayer and the dog's owner alternately cried and hummed "Mary Had A Little Lamb", for 20 seconds in front of the dogs. Similar experiments have shown infants expressing empathy towards strangers under these conditions. Three observers were asked to score films of the dog's reactions to the crying, humming and talking by Mayer and the owners. "Four emotional states in dogs were considered: submissive, calm, playful and alert," says the study.

 

 2012-07-08 - Canine comfort: Does your dog  know when you're sad?
In a study published online May 30 in the journal Animal Cognition, University of London researchers found that dogs were more likely to approach a crying person than someone who was humming or talking, and that they normally responded to weeping with submissive behaviors. The results are what you might expect if dogs understand our pain, the researchers wrote, but it's not proof that they do.

 

2012-06-14  - Man's Best Friend: Mere Companion or Source of Compassion?

Recent science suggests that dogs may have more to contribute during hard and emotional times than previously thought. In understanding the science behind human capacity for empathy, it's not uncommon to turn to the animal kingdom for additional evidence. It's been widely accepted that several animal species -- primates, most notably -- exhibit prosocial tendencies. While primates are our close evolutionary cousins, dogs are our closer companions. What does man's best friend tell us about the science of empathy? 

 2012-06-09 - Study: Dogs Show Natural Desire to Comfort Human Companions

According to a recent study by Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer of Goldsmiths College in London, dogs are good for us in more ways than we might have imagined. Not only do they have a desire to please – they also want us to be happy. According to the study, published in the in the journal of Animal Cognition: Empathy covers a range of phenomena from cognitive empathy involving metarepresentation to emotional contagion stemming from automatically triggered reflexes. An experimental protocol first used with human infants was adapted to investigate empathy in domestic dogs

 

2012-06-13 - The case for dog-gone empathy
"As a live-in companion of four Golden Retrievers over the last twenty-five years, I don’t need to be convinced how emotionally sensitive and empathically supportive dogs are when people around them are in distress. When you’re down, few things could be more comforting than a cold nuzzle from a warm Golden.Yet science quite properly discounts anecdotes, and all of the tales I could produce would not add up to empirical evidence. For that, you need a real experiment."