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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Frans de Waal

One of the most influential people in the study of empathy is the Professor of Primate Behavior, Frans de Waal. See links to videos and articles about him and his work below.

Frans De Waal talks about the Biology and Nature of Empathy
with Edwin Rutsch

Frans de Waal is a psychology professor at Emory University with a Ph.D. in biology. He is the author of many books, including Chimpanzee Politics,  Our Inner Ape and The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society. The director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, de Waal was ranked among the World’s 100 Most Influential People of 2007 by Time.

Sub Conference: Science Conference


Frans De Waal talks about the Nature of Empathy with Edwin Rutsch


  • Introduction:

    • is a primateologist

    • also works with elephants

  • We're in front of a mirror here, how is empathy related to mirroring?

    • mirror neurons

      • were discovered in monkeys

      • can not do these tests on humans, can't do single cell recording

    • self awareness - recognizing the self in a mirror

      • more cognitive forms of empathy need to differentiate self and the other

      • empathy fuses the minds or body so to speak

      • more advanced forms of empathy we need differentiate between my emotions and the others

      • need to be able to make the distinction between self and other

      • that distinction correlates, we think, with self awareness

      • human children when they are 2, they start to recognize themselves in the mirror

        • and develop more complex forms of empathy

        • can position themselves in the situation of somebody else

      • some species - elephants, dolphins, great apes who recognize themselves in the mirror

        • which allows them to have more complex forms of empathy than others

        • dog and cat does not recognize itself in the mirror but  do respond to emotion, which is the basis of empathy

  • 2:50 You have done mirror tests with elephants

    • Gordon Gallup, 30 years ago discovered self recognition in apes

      • self awareness in the apes corresponds to empathy

      • started testing other animals

    • we did mirror test with elephants.

    • we put a mark on their head.

    • elephants passed the self awareness test

  • 5:30 How do you define empathy?

    • empathy has many layers

    • emotional contagion

      • babies cry when they hear another baby cry

      • visible in all mammals

    • on top of that we build more complex layers

      • where you not only understand others emotions but try to do something

      • that's more complex and is a cognitive layer on top of it

    •  dogs are very empathic animals, but not particularly good at taking the perspective of someone

  • 6:50 - How can we build a culture of empathy?

    • first step is to give empathy a positive sound

      • which it has gotten in the mean time

      • I spoke with scientists who started studying empathy 30 years ago and they said people laughed at them

      • it was a funny topic and in the same category as telepathy and astrology

      • it was not a serous topic

    • The first thing is to make it a serious topic with a positive sound

      • I've been doing that by looking at empathy in animals

      • so that people don't see it as some new cognitive ability but something that is deeply engrained in human nature

      • deeply engrained in our mammalian heritage which is 200 million years old

      • make empathy a positive that is good for society

    • (In USA) we've come out of a period where we though greed and selfishness was good for society, I don't think it particularly is

      • with the collapse of the economy a could of years ago people have started to reflect if greed is so good.

      • I'm not saying we will ever have a society that's without selfishness

      • it's a balancing act

    • empathy used to be a soft word that no one took seriously and I think that has to change

  • 9:00 There seems to be a lot of other scientist working on this now?

    • yes, the neuro scientists, the economists and anthropologist, people in animal behavior

    • it's becoming a bigger and more respected topic

    • in the next 25 years there will be an enormous amount of discoveries

  • 10:00 Paul Ekman told me we need a Empathy Manhattan project! what else can we do?

    • The other things, that I'm not an expert on is education and culture of course. A cultural and educational change that emphasizes empathy more. I would also warn that empathy is not invariably positive. People think that empathy is automatically a positive characteristic Empathy can be used for bad purposes also.

      • the used car salesman uses empathy to sell you a crappy car.

      • the torturer needs to know know what will effect you

      • empathy by itself is a neutral characteristic that we can use for good of for bad

      • but first we need to learn how it works before we get into how we're going to enhance it.

  • 11:20 There's a level of empathy that is so deep that you feel like your selves merge. It's hard to do harm then?

    • males and females are different in this regard

    • I think the origin of empathy in mammals in female maternal care

    • the female needs to respond to the needs of the offspring

    • so woman have a more profound kind of empathy

    • the mechanism is more developed, so to speak

    • it is more automated than in men

    • I think men can switch back and forth

      • I can like you one moment, be empathic, but then you slight me then you become an enemy

      • and all my empathy is gone and I'll get you, one way or another

      • men are like that, they can turn the switch on it, more than woman

      • there's experimental studies on this

    • when you talk about merging with the other that prevents you from exploiting the other, I'm not sure that applies completely to men. I think men always have the ability to step out of it.

  • 12:45: What do you think about the enlightened self interest argument?

    • it is true that Americans do love that Self Interest story. If we do things for yourselves and there's a positive byproduct for others that's ok,

    • it's the Ayn Rand type of thinking

      • I don't know why Americans like that sort of thinking so much, because it's not particularly popular outside of the US.

      • that is sort of the mythology, even though t people are very friendly and generous here and not less empathic than anywhere else in my opinion

      • the self-interest story

    • Empathy is self interest, it evolved for survival like all characteristics that we have, they serve some purpose

      • but once it is there, it can be applied outside of  that purpose

      • one you have empathic capacity you can apply it to a stranded whale

      • certainly empathy did not evolve for us to take care of a stranded whale

      • humans can apply it outside of the context for which it was originally intended

      • we do that all the time with all kinds of characteristics that we have

      • to call that then self-interested, I'm not sure that's the right word for me

      • I'd say it's the expanded use of the capacity of empathy

      • you can empathize with

        • other species,

        • individuals that you don't know

        • you see a child fall and you flinch even thought you don't know the child

          • it's an automated reaction that we have

          • it has nothing to do with self interest in that particular instance

          • but the capacity evolved in the end because it was beneficial for us

  • 15:30 Once we have the capacity, we're not doing it out of self interest but embodying our capacity?

    • not every instance where you embody empathy is there a self interest going on

  • 15:50 What do you think of the vision of building a culture of empathy?

    • I think it is important in society, especially at the moment. Now that we have come out of this period where greed was so good. I think it is important to emphasize that there are alternative ways of looking at society. A society where solidarity is important and caring about others is important.

      • the whole health care debate. it is not health business

      • the European model is more about caring

      • it comes out of care and responsibility

      • rather than making money off it

  • 17:30 How did empathy become important to you?

    • I studied consolation in chimpanzees

    • 20 years ago, went to a conference and they talked about empathic concern in children

    • that's the connection,  consolation to empathic concern

    • I wasn't calling it empathy but then  started calling it empathy

    • there was resistance from others

    • now it is more and more accepted that animals have empathy

  • 19:15 Have your studies made you more personally empathic?

    • I am  a very empathic person

    • studying animals it helps to be empathic

    • many field workers love the animals and empathize with them

    • they are more interested in them

    • my empathy doesn't stand in the way of object date gathering, I can do both

    • I am a very empathic person






Animal emotions and empathy with Frans de Waal


"Do animals show empathy? Are there any signs of morality in animal societies? Can a monkey distinguish right from wrong? And what are the standards of what is right and what is not? Does morality evolve in time both for human societies and animal societies?

It is hard to imagine that empathy—a characteristic so basic to the human species that it emerges early in life, and is accompanied by strong physiological reactions—came into existence only when our lineage split off from that of the apes. It must be far older than that. Examples of empathy in other animals would suggest a long evolutionary history to this capacity in humans. Over the last several decades, we’ve seen increasing evidence of empathy in other species. Emotions suffuse much of the language employed by students of animal behavior -- from "social bonding" to "alarm calls" -- yet are often avoided as explicit topic in scientific discourse. Given the increasing interest of human psychology in the emotions, and the neuroscience on animal emotions."




Episode 18: Empathy


"Empathy has long been considered a uniquely human trait, but it's an ability that has also been observed in apes and other animals. Primatologist Frans de Waal says that examples of empathy in non-human primates and other mammals suggest  that empathy has a long evolutionary history in humans.


Frans de Waal is the C.H. Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory University where he directs the Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution. He’s the author of several books including The Age of Empathy, and most recently, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?   Credits: Nancy Rosenbaum produced our story. Our editor is Audrey Quinn."






Frans de Waal - Here a few reactions:
(to Baby in the Well, The Case Against Empathy)

Obviously empathy is not universally good. It is not even defined as a positive capacity, since its definition has to do with adopting the emotional state of others, understanding their situation, which are capacities that may be used for negative or exploitative purposes. I am on board with Bloom that pure empathy is not going to save the world, and that it may even be dangerous given the bias that's built into empathy, a bias for the own group and for people similar to us. But I am surprised by his suggestion that we need to separate empathy and rationality, as if this is even possible. This is built upon the traditional dichotomy in Western thought between emotion & reason. Most psychological science has now debunked this dichotomy.

First, emotions are quite intelligent, since they rest on appraisal mechanisms that require a cognitive evaluation of the situation we are in.

Second, rationality could not even exist without emotions, as there would be no reason to think about anything if we were not emotionally interested. Pure reason is pure fiction. Read Damasio, read Hume. Bloom follows a very Cartesian line of thought.

If we think about what kind of society we'd like to live in, automatically we will bring emotions and empty into the picture. We may rationally decide that slavery is not acceptable, that it undermines society, that it denies human rights, yet Lincoln mentioned explicitly in his correspondence that he was seriously bothered by the sight of slaves when he visited the south and that this was part of his motivation to fight slavery. Emotions seep into every rational decision we make, and for Bloom to suggest that it could be otherwise is naive. Yet, if his point is that some emotions and some forms of empathy can be counterproductive, I agree and the difference of opinion is perhaps not as great as it may seem.

Empathy is a capacity that has evolved over the last 200 million years in the mammals, it can't be as bad as Bloom make it seem.

I hope this helps,
Frans De Waal



 Frans de Waal presents his new book, The Bonobo and the Atheist


 "Professor de Waal was brought to campus as part of the Jardezky Lecture Series on Science, Culture and Ethics...

Much of the talk focused on empathy. de Waal divides empathy into two distinct types: bodily empathy, which involves basic mimicry and coordination between individuals, and cognitive empathy, which allows individuals to distinguish themselves from others and take the place of others in their minds.

Cognitive empathy is more complex, and depends on an organism’s ability to form an image of themselves as a distinct individual. This is often investigated by a mirror test, where an animal is marked with paint, then presented with a mirror and tested to see if they notice the change. Humans are able to pass this test starting when they are about two years old, which corresponds with an increase in ability to know other people’s emotions. Other animals, such as apes and dolphins, have shown they can pass this test as well

2013-06-09  - Frans de Waal on chimps & bonobos - NPR - To the Best of  our KNOWLEDGE
"Are humans unique - or really not that different from other apes? Primatologist Frans de Waal says chimps & bonobos share many of our traits, including empathy and a sense of fairness. He describes some of his research that challenges assumptions about human exceptionalism."

NPR: To the best of our KNOWLEDGE
Frans de Waal on chimps & bonobos

"Paulson: You’re talking about empathy here - the capacity to recognize another chimpanzee’s pain or difficulties, and then to help that animal.

de Waal: Yeah. Empathy is one of those traits that humans over-estimate the complexity of. And that’s why if you tell the average psychologist, you say that there is empathy in animals, they will say that’s not possible. Because they think empathy means that you consciously put yourself in the shoes of somebody else. Now we know from human research that is not the case. In human research we know that there’s a lot of empathy, automatic empathy responses.

Like if I’m frowning and looking sad, you’re going to be frowning and looking sad. Because you’re going to be affected by my facial emotions, right? If I’m happy and laughing and smiling, you’re going to be laughing and smiling. And so there’s a lot of bodily connection in human empathy. And that bodily connection, which is usually called emotional contagion, is easily demonstrable in lots of animals. And so we can test out these bodily connections that exist, and that’s how empathy basically starts."


The Cosmopolitan Ape: Empathy, morality, community, culture—apes can have it all!
Steve Paulson of NPR - To the best of our KNOWLEDGE interviews
 Frans de Waal on chimps, bonobos & empathy
"Humans overestimate the complexity of empathy. If you tell the average psychologist there’s empathy in animals, they will say that’s not possible. They think empathy means you consciously put yourself in the shoes of somebody else. We now know from human research that there’s a lot of empathy in automatic responses. If I’m frowning and looking sad, you’re going to frown and look sad because you will be affected by my facial emotions. If I’m laughing and smiling, you are going to laugh and smile.

That bodily connection, usually called emotional contagion, is easily demonstrable in lots of animals. We do research on yawning contagion in chimpanzees. If I’m yawning, you are going to yawn at some point. We know from human studies that it’s correlated to empathy. People who are very empathetic are also very sensitive to the yawns of others..."


2013-04-12 - Science Seat: Where morals come from 
"By Kelly Murray, CNN The Science Seat

CNN: Tell us more about the origins of empathy.

De Waal: We think that the origin of empathy, in the mammals at least, has to do with maternal care. So a female, whether you’re a mouse or an elephant, you need to pay attention to your offspring, you need to react to their emotions when they’re cold, or in danger, or hungry, and that’s where we think the sensitivity to others’ emotions come from.

That also explains why empathy is more developed in females than males, which is true in many animals, and it’s true for humans, and it explains the role of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a maternal hormone. If you spray oxytocin into the nostrils of men and women, you get more empathic (empathetic) reactions from them, and so the general thinking about empathy is that it started in the mammals with maternal care, and then from there it spread to other relationships. So men can definitely have empathy, but they on average have a little bit less of it than women.

CNN: By empathy, you mean that they feel each others’ pain?..."


Empathy Definition by Frans De Waal

What exactly is empathy? "Empathy: The capacity to

a) be affected by and share the emotional state of another,

b) assess the reasons for the other's state, and

c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective. This definition extends beyond what exists in many animals, but I employ the term "empathy" even if only the first criterion is met as I believe all of these elements are evolutionarily connected...."more.

The Antiquity of Empathy - Frans B. M. de Waal



"The Russian doll model of multilayered empathy. The doll's inner core consists of the perception-action mechanism (PAM) that underlies state-matching and emotional contagion.

Built around this hard-wired socioaffective basis, the doll's outer layers include sympathetic concern and targeted helping. The complexity of empathy grows with increasing perspective-taking capacities, which depend on prefrontal neural functioning, yet remain fundamentally connected to the PAM.

 A few large-brained species show all of the doll's layers,
 but most show only the inner ones."




2011-11-00 -Ted Talk - Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals

Empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity -- caring about the well-being of others seems like a very human trait. But Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioral tests, on primates and other mammals, that show how many of these moral traits all of us share.

  • Hieronymus Bosch - and morality and religion

    • garden of earthly delights.

  • Chimpanzees and power, aggression,

  • view was the humanity is competitive, aggressive, dominance, nasty

  • but there is reconciliation

    • relationship damaged - do something about it

  • Humanity is more empathic cooperative than it's give credit for

    • 3:12 - Pillars of Morality -

      • reciprocity -> Fairness

      • empathy -> compassion

      • more this, but the basics

  • video of chimps cooperating.

  • video of elephants cooperating.

  • Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

    • understanding - cognitive

      • self-other distinction

    • feeling - the body channel

      • Synchrony - old process in animals

        • yawning

        • video of chimps yawning

      • consolation - comforting

        • empathy driven

      • motor mimicry

        • emotional contagion

      • video - chimp selfish vers. prosocial choice

  • Fairness studies with monkeys

    • Videos: shows fairness monkeys

  • Evolved Morality

    • empathy and consolation

    • prosocial tendencies

    • reciprocity and fairness


2011-Nov 21 - Frans de Waal - Morality without Religion  

 Human morality is older than our current religions, and may go back to tendencies observable in other mammals. In a bottom-up view of morality, this talk is one man's road to discovering an array of positive tendencies in animals at a time when competition and aggression were the only themes.

2011-05-11 - Were You Born Selfish?: An Interview with Frans de Waal
Richard Dawkins has declared that humans are “nicer than is good for our selfish genes.” Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal argues against this popular picture of evolution as a Hobbesian wilderness of selfishly competing individuals, where life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” De Waal focuses his research on the social behavior of primates, studying questions of culture, altruism, morality, and empathy.

We can learn about the origins of our sociality, both in terms of hierarchies, competition and power games and in terms of empathy and morality. We share both with our animal relatives, both the good and the bad, and should stop blaming everything we don't like about ourselves on our biology ("we're acting like animals!") while claiming all good we do for our noble human nature. All of our tendencies evolved for a reason among the social primates, and once we understand this, we will better understand the dynamics of our own societies.

Video abc news: The Science of Monkey Morality
Biologist Frans de Waal sees similarities between human morality and monkeys

2009 - Bodies in Sync:  Contagious laughter, yawns, and moods offer insight into empathy’s origins.
Empathy engages brain areas, such as the limbic system, that are more than 100 million years old. The capacity arose long ago with motor mimicry and emotional contagion, after which evolution added layer after layer, until our ancestors not only felt what others felt, but understood what others might want or need. That ultimately led to sympathy: while empathy is a way we gather information about someone else, sympathy reflects our concern about the other and a desire to improve the other’s situation. Sympathy is anything but automatic. Nevertheless, it is common not only in humans but also in other animals, such as apes, dogs, elephants, and birds.

Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy
(Society becoming more empathic, Supreme Court example, from maternal care,
Oxytocin, cross species empathy, conservatives see Social Darwinism, competition v. empathy, degrees of empathy in many animals).


2010-10-02 - chimp empathy & morality, sans religion (Frans De Waal)


Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society (Clips 1-9)
A conversation between Frans de Waal and Carl Zimmer of Discover magazine.

  • 1: Chimpanzees, aggression, and reconciliation

    • How did you begin looking at animals as peace makers?

      • The scientific discussion was previously all about aggression.

      • Only 5% of the time there's conflict in chimpanzee society

      • He started studying animal reconciliation

    • In book you show examples of animal empathy and caring -?

      • He observes the animals

      • Watched Consolation behavior

      • Study: Carolyn Waxler?? Wisconsin - empathy in children,

        • 1 year olds show empathic reaction

      • dogs, cats, dolphins show empathy

  • 2: Cucumbers versus grapes—and the idea of fairness

    • How do you run experiments?

      • First started just watching

      • Created systematic studies in a monkey/chimp lab

      • Did animal fairness experiments - mammals value fairness

  • 3: The origins of empathy in maternal care

    • The evolution of human empathy - what forces shaped it's development?

      • maternal care

      • there's a need for females to care for offspring

      • oxytocin mediates empathy

      • a maternal hormone

      • spray it in your nose and you become more trusting

    • Why is there an expansion of empathy to group members, etc.?

      • Reciprocity - I do you a favor - you do me a favor

      • Kin selection -

      • Altruism kin bias -

      • Sex - has it's own motivator - like empathy is a motivator

  • 4. Alpha male to the rescue

    • Why are primates more emphatic and how did it evolve?

      • all these mechanisms are in other animals as well

      • some animals add to it, apes, dolphins, elephants - a curiosity - perspective

      • seems to be levels of empathy

      • Story: of Alfa male chimp saving the life of a choking baby ape

  • 5. The neuroscience of compassion

    • How does the neurology work?

      • Studies: with MRIs show  shared pain humans

        • Jon Decity - Chicago

        • Tania Singer - Germany

      • There's an 'other distinction mechanism' so you can separate yourself from others pain

      • distinguish your pain from my pain, perspective taking

      • recognizing yourself in the mirror

  • 6. Empathy as a physiological response

    • Do we have the same empathy as apes?

      • humans are very good at perspective taking

      • you can empathize with a novel character

      • empathy is involuntary bodily experience

      • Study: Swedish scientist  Linberg? said empathy reactions are faster than we are aware of

        • People used to think people decided to be empathic

        • Linberg? flashed faces on computer screen

        • flashed subliminal faces, (people felt the mood in the faces)

  • 7. Good Samaritans in a hurry

    • If empathy is deeply ingrained in humans, why is there so much contention?

      • we are also selfish, etc.

      • how is it turned off and on?

      • regulation of empathy? 

      • Study: seminary students rush to tell good Samaritan story

        • greater pressure the more they ignore the suffering person

  • 8: Social Darwinism and the lessons of evolution

    • What about Social Darwinism?

      • a lot of it in USA?

      • promoted by Herb Spenser - justifies the strong dominating the week

      • evolution produced animals that live in society

    • From studies - how should society be structure?

      • ecological niches

      • what is human nature? family, empathy, competitive, etc

      •  Jeff Skilling,  structured Enron around fear and greed

      • take the nature of the beast into account - humans are more than greed and fear.

  • 9. The dark side of empathy

    • Empathy is the capacity to resonate with others

    • Can be used for competitive purposes of by a torturer.

    • Bernie Madoff - psychopath has perspective taking but not emotional aspect

    • 1 or 2% of people are psychopaths

A slide show about the book: The Age Of Empathy






Happy Mothers Day.


(images Wikipedia)



2013-04-12 - Science Seat: Where morals come from 

"We think that the origin of empathy, in the mammals at least, has to do with maternal care. So a female, whether you’re a mouse or an elephant, you need to pay attention to your offspring, you need to react to their emotions when they’re cold, or in danger, or hungry, and that’s where we think the sensitivity to others’ emotions come from.

That also explains why empathy is more developed in females than males, which is true in many animals, and it’s true for humans, and it explains the role of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a maternal hormone. If you spray oxytocin into the nostrils of men and women, you get more empathic (empathetic) reactions from them, and so the general thinking about empathy is that it started in the mammals with maternal care, and then from there it spread to other relationships. So men can definitely have empathy, but they on average have a little bit less of it than women."

Clip 3: The origins of empathy in maternal care (Templeton Foundation)
A conversation between Frans de Waal, author of "The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society," and Carl Zimmer, Discover magazine.


  • Evolution of Human empathy? What were some of the forces that shaped behavior to bring empathic life?

    • parental or maternal care

    • parents have to respond right away to the offspring



  •  that's why Oxytocin mediates empathic responses.

Clip 6: Empathy as a physiological response (Templeton Foundation)



Clip 9: The dark side of empathy (Templeton Foundation)



Science Saturday: Like Animals - A Conversation between Frans de Waal & David Berreby


  • Frans’s latest book, “The Age of Empathy” (04:11)

    • David Berreby - Author: Us and Them

    • Frans de WaalI - Primatologist - Emory U.

    • Book Discussion - 'The Age of Empathy' 

    • What's your response to Haiti?

      • More Empathic response to seeing body, pains, more than words.

      • there's unnecessary antagonism between science and religion

      • Dostoyevsky - without god everything is possible

    • Why is understanding ourselves scientifically not a threat?

      • some people say all bad comes from nature

      • act like animals, kill each other, etc.

      • there's a lot of love, affection, etc, share it with animals

  • Empathy as a social contagion (06:54)

  • What about biological tendencies?

    • Humans have tendencies that can be strengthened or weakened

    • religion can not install empathy in humans

    • animals have natural inborn tendencies.

    • can't train a cat to catch a stick

    • Morality - modifies human nature

  • What are basic human capabilities and nature?

    • basic form of empathy,

    • a baby cries when another baby cries. (it empathizes with it.)

    • emotional contagion -

      • hear a sad story - you feel sad

      • hear  happy story - you feel happy

      • we copy body feelings

      • mice, dogs, chimps, etc do it

    • Animals support other members of the group?

      • chimps help old, injured, etc

      • plenty of nasty aspects to animals, like humans

      • story of young chimp with rope around the neck

        • more than simple empathy - perspective taking

  • A biological basis for morality and soccer hooliganism (18:48)

    •  Some say, doing good is going against our nature?

      • morality is seen as overcoming our nature

      • actually we have both inherently

    • Emotional contagion - the army marching together?

      • Synchrony is important, birds, herds, etc.

      • Synchrony - joy of marching together

      • Study: speed dating mimicking others

      • Marketers starting to use it.

      • Study: even works with humans and monkeys

      • in a pop concert all moving in the same way shows unity

    • Synchrony can work against empathy?

      • Synchrony and joy of belonging  - excluding others

    • Bishop More: in marines, got pleasure in being part of army and marching

    • Religion, etc, can cut off empathy in different ways?

      • Book: Age of Empathy  explores,

        • similarities  between human and animal empathy,

        • and where it comes from - evolutionary

      • Need to address how empathy is regulated, turned off and on?

        • empathy is largely in-group phenomenon

        • how do we turn it off?

          • dehumanization

          • objectify

          • why do we sometimes do it and sometimes not

    • Sometimes it's hard to turn empathy off?

    • Gerbils complained Germans were not vicious enough to Jews?

      • empathy is enemy of hatred.

      • Story of Israel politician having empathy for Palestinian

      • empathy, is only way to bring people together.

    • You must suppress empathy to do war? reason is saying kill, feeling says I don't' want to?

      • Question is how do you structure society.

      • Healthcare debate is example.

        • some say - take care of only yourself

        • need to turn off your empathy to say things like that

      • Human nature is not like that

    • Do animals regulate their empathy?

      • Create bonds of empathy - see the similarity to the person or animal

      • Story - chimp group split and the started fighting

        • did it without language

        • previous empathy was lost after the split

    • Humans have my groups and they overlap?

    • Stories of in-group to out groups?

      • Stories of France soccer groups

    • Studies of soccer hooligans - in and out groups?

  • Does religion have to be at war with science? (12:48)

    • Do you need a religious doctrine to be compassionate?

      • religions are quite completive., cases as many problems and solve

      • religion amplifies qualities we already have

      • religion didn't invent morality

    • Is religion part of evolution?

      • humans all over the world create religions

      • literalism is a problem

    • What is meant by religion?

    • Religion is the rational explanation of what we do?

      • science and religion antagonism is not good

      • explaining life and religion as inspiration of life

    • Science v Religion - as in and out group?

      • without god we would have morality - in not accurate

      • morality (empathy, reciprocity, fairness)  is found in human kingdom

      • monkeys like fairness

    • Imagined groups, their in our head? family, nation, parties, etc.

  • The fragility of empathy (04:08)

    • Challenge of our time, empathy comes and goes?

    • In and out groups can change quickly?

      • animals also have that also

    • Behavior becomes autonomous from why it evolved? i.e. empathy for whales

  • Enron, the selfish gene, and Nazi pseudoscience (08:14)

    • What should I do?

      • move away from idea that nature is all about competition,

      • we are selfish and empathic

    • Story of Enron and selfishness?

      • CEO - Skilling believed in selfish gene metaphor

Percontations: Humanity’s Primate Heritage - Discussion Frans de Waal & Jeffrey Schloss.

  • Human nature, primate nature, animal nature (05:20)

    • Frans de WaalI - Primatologist - Emory U.

    • Jeffrey SchlossEvolutionary Biologist - Santa Barbara

    • Humans are primates, lots of similarity to other animals

    • We are different in degree from other animals

    • We have continuity with other animals -

    • Iceberg metaphor 90percent same - under water

  • What’s so special about human empathy? (07:40)

    • We share warm capacity with animals, like empathy.

    • Animals have attachment, cooperation, empathy

    • Parental care

    • Capacity to care

    • Grief at disruption of bonds

    • Care outside kinship

  • Why not have sex at every opportunity? (04:28)

    • sex is an independent motivation

    •  same as altruism -

    • can be used outside of the original reason it evolved.

    • i.e.. dolphin rescue human swimmers

    • altruism didn't evolve in dolphins for that purpose

  • The “altruism is a meme” meme (07:59)

    • wide spread altruism.

    • is altruism based on memes?

    • evolution - genetic level and memes level?

    • Waal - altruism is almost always based on empathy

    • Altruism uses biological mechanisms - versus religious, etc

    • Forgiveness - animals have makeup capabilities

  • Can you live a morally good life solely on the basis of religion? (15:17)

    • Religious people may say: If there is no god you can do anything?

      • do you trust someone that thinks like that

      • ideology can cause much negative

      • feelings are fleeting - beliefs can constrain

    • In war - the empathy capabilities were suppressed

      • how difficult is it to kill

      • deep down we have inhibition to kill

      • deep down it violates our humanity

    • Jeffrey Schloss is religious - try's to make a case for moral structure/reason/

    • Frans de WaalI - is not religious

    • People think that evolution throws religious and morality  out the window

    • Religion amplifies the basic moral system - i.e. fairness tendencies

    • people misunderstand evolution and think it stands for selfishness

  • Is morality a self-deception? (11:26)


Frans de Waal at ASC


Monkey See, Monkey Give
monkeys helping each other out, or not.


2010-10-16 Frans de Waal Emory University and Robert Wright The Evolution of God, Nonzero


Science Saturday: Primate Ethics

2010-10-17 -
Morals Without God?
-  Frans de Waal - NY Times
Such observations fit the emerging field of animal empathy, which deals not only with primates, but also with canines, elephants, even rodents. A typical example is how chimpanzees console distressed parties, hugging and kissing them, which behavior is so predictable that scientists have analyzed thousands of cases. Mammals are sensitive to each other’s emotions, and react to others in need. The whole reason people fill their homes with furry carnivores and not with, say, iguanas and turtles, is because mammals offer something no reptile ever will. They give affection, they want affection, and respond to our emotions the way we do to theirs.

 2010-08-04 - Primatologist Frans de Waal on the evolution of empathy
"World-renowned primatologist FRANS DE WAAL has spent years studying chimpanzees, bonobos, and capuchins.  While he has witnessed plenty of selfish and aggressive behavior, he has also watched primates cooperate, resolve conflicts, share food, laugh, and help each other.  De Waal argues that these interactions show that empathy, altruism, and morality are hard-wired in the primate brain – including the human primate brain." Listen to the mp3

2010-02-02 -  Frans de Waal - I Have Seen My Shadow, and It's Human! 

After many of such tests it has now been concluded that, yes, primates other than humans love to help each other. They do care about the welfare of others as much as humans do, which is to say, some of the time.

This has implications for modern human society, because all too often politicians start from the assumption that society needs to be structured around competition, given that this is how nature works. Their dismal, inaccurate view of the natural world thus informs their view of human society. Too bad if some people have no health insurance, so the argument goes, so long as those who can afford it do. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona went one step further by voting against coverage of maternity care, because, as he explained, he had never had any need for it himself.

I feel that we should hold Senator Kyl and others of his species aloft in the glaring daylight and see what their shadow tells us. If they don't see the sun soon, there will be a never-ending winter.

2009-10-15 - Learning Empathy From Apes
Maureen Cavanaugh radio show.


2010-01-00 -  Frans de Waal.- The Evolution of Empathy
Empathy's not a uniquely human trait, explains primatologist Frans de Waal. Apes and other animals feel it as well, suggesting that empathy is truly an essential part of who we are.

Once upon a time, the United States had a president known for a peculiar facial display. In an act of controlled emotion, he would bite his lower lip and tell his audience, "I feel your pain." Whether the display was sincere is not the issue here; how we are affected by another's predicament is. Empathy is second nature to us, so much so that anyone devoid of it strikes us as dangerous or mentally ill.

At the movies, we can't help but get inside the skin of the characters on the screen. We despair when their gigantic ship sinks; we exult when they finally stare into the eyes of a long-lost lover.

2009-09-22 - Interview: American University Radio. 
 Read it here or listen with Real Player.


2009-09-xx - Article - By Frans de Waal -  Bodies in Sync
Contagious laughter, yawns, and moods offer insight into empathy’s origins.
That is where empathy and sympathy start—with the synchronization of bodies—not in the higher regions of imagination, or in the ability to consciously reconstruct how we would feel if we were in someone else’s “shoes.” And yet empathy is often presented as a voluntary process, requiring role taking, higher cognition, and even language. Accordingly, most scholarly literature on empathy is completely human centered, never mentioning other animals. As if a capacity so visceral and pervasive could be anything other than biological! To counter such widespread views, I decided to investigate how chimpanzees relate to and learn from one another.

2009-10-19 - FRANS DE WAAL - Our Kinder, Gentler Ancestors

Ardi casts doubt on the notion that we have an innate killer instinct
Are humans hard-wired to be ruthlessly competitive or supportive of one another?

The behavior of our ape relatives, known as peaceful vegetarians, once bolstered the view that our actions could not be traced to an impulse to dominate. But in the late 1970s, when chimpanzees were discovered to hunt monkeys and kill each other, they became the poster boys for our violent origins and aggressive instinct.  ....
The empathy literature on animals is growing fast, and is no longer restricted to such anecdotes. There are now systematic studies, and even experiments that show that we are not the only caring species. At the same time, we are getting used to findings of remarkable human empathy, such as those by neuroscientists that reward centers in the brain light up when we give to charity (hence the saying that "doing good feels good") or that seeing another in pain activates the same brain areas as when we are in pain ourselves. Obviously, we are hard-wired to be in tune with the emotions of others, a capacity that evolution should never have favored if exploitation of others were all that mattered.

2009-10-15 - Learning Empathy From Apes
I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Although Charles Darwin never said it, the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ has become part of what people understand about the theory of evolution. The implication has always been that the ‘fittest’ referred to individual members of species who were stronger, healthier and sometimes more clever than their counterparts. But what if fittest also referred to behaviors that contribute to the survival of groups of animals, behaviors that display awareness of the needs of others? That’s the question posed in a new book by renowned primatologist and psychologist Frans de Waal.


2009-10-10 - Article - By Frans de Waal -  Morals without God
Without God, we will live like animals!
After listening to the debate between Bill O'Reilly and Richard Dawkins, it struck me again that the resistance to evolutionary theory largely stems from the illusion that without God there can be no morality. Some believers feel threatened by evolutionary theory not because the theory is right or wrong -- the evidence doesn't seem to matter much to them -- but because accepting it would mean accepting that we have been created by natural processes including our morality. The final part is what bothers them the most.

2009 - How Bad Biology Killed the Economy
An unnatural culture of greed and fear has brought the global economy to its knees. We need to start playing to our pro-social strengths, says Frans de Waal. The CEO of Enron - now in prison - happily applied ‘selfish gene’ logic to his human capital, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assuming that the human species is driven purely by greed and fear, Jeffrey Skilling produced employees driven by the same motives. Enron imploded under the mean-spirited weight of his policies, offering a preview of what was in store for the world economy as a whole.

2007-01-17 -  Frans de Waal - The Selfishness of Giving
The predominant opinion used to be that humans are rational profit-maximizers. Society was built around this principle, with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan as its political champions. Biology supported it, by talking of "selfish genes," which some mistook to mean that we must by definition be selfish, too. Greed was good....

In the meantime, primatologists were debating altruism, too, and found the same or similar empathy and altruism outside of our own species. Monkeys and apes sometimes take great risks to help each other, for example against predators (chimps in the forest defend each other against leopards) or enemies (females defend each other against violent males). Chimpanzees spontaneously share food with each other, and in recent experiments it was found that primates will secure rewards for others even if this does not benefit themselves in any way. Since they didn't need incentives to do so, it is possible they were doing it for some internal reward. Perhaps other primates, too, derive pleasure from giving.


"The Age of Empathy" excerpt 1
A short excerpt from the audiobook "The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons For a Kinder Society" by Frans de Waal (read by Alan Sklar; 2009; disc 3, tracks 3-6) on the topic of social synchronicity and imitation among primates as well as humans.

The Age of Empathy" excerpt 2
Another excerpt from Frans de Waal's audiobook titled "The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons For a Kinder Society" (2009; read by Alan Sklar; disc 4, tracks 1-4) on the topics of empathy and sympathy in chimps and humans.

The Age of Empathy" excerpt 3



Morality and Empathy

Learning Morality from Monkeys


Morality: It's not just for humans
"You might think of "morality" as special for humans, but there are elements of it that are found in the animal kingdom, says de Waal -- namely, fairness and reciprocity. His latest study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that chimpanzees may show some of the same sensibility about fairness that humans do.. "

We think that empathy evolved to take care of others that you need to take care of, especially, of course, between mother and offspring, which is universal in all the mammals," de Waal said."