ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (7): 1229-1238.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2013.01229

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Animal and Human Altruistic Nature: The Evolution of Empathy

PAN Yangu;LIU Yanling;RAN Guangming;LEI Hao;MA Jianling;TENG Zhaojun   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Southwest University; Research Center of Mental Health Education, Southwest University; Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality of Ministry of Education, Chongqing 400715, China) (2 Key Laboratory for NeuroInformation of Ministry of Education, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu 610054, China)
  • Received:2012-10-15 Online:2013-07-15 Published:2013-07-15
  • Contact: LIU Yanling

Abstract: Empathy occurs when an observer perceives or imagines someone else’s affect and this triggers a response such that the observer partially feels what the target is feeling. Altruism refers to the motivation of which ultimate goal is to increase other individuals’ welfare. Empathy originates from animals’ parental rearing behavior and its neural basis is derived from old emotional system. Empathy has evolved from animals’ simple emotional contagion to sympathetic concern and empathic perspective-taking. In addition, empathy has a good adaptability to the environment. Future research can focus on the similarity and difference between human beings’ and animals’ empathy and altruistic behaviors, animals’ advanced empathy ability and altruistic behaviors, and the regulation mechanism of social factors on empathy.

Key words: empathy, evolution, altruism, emotional contagion, sympathetic concern, empathic perspective-taking