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Altruism and Altruistic LoveScience, Philosophy, and Religion in Dialogue$
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Stephen G. Post, Lynn G. Underwood, Jeffrey P. Schloss, and William B. Hurlbut

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195143584

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195143584.001.0001

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The Communication of Emotions and the Possibility of Empathy in Animals

The Communication of Emotions and the Possibility of Empathy in Animals

(p.284) 17 The Communication of Emotions and the Possibility of Empathy in Animals
Altruism and Altruistic Love

Stephanie D. Preston

Frans B. M. De Waal

Oxford University Press

The possibility of nonhuman animals having empathy and sympathy has thus far received little attention in behavioral biology. Many animals are emotionally affected by the distress of another and sometimes show appropriate helping responses. We regard empathy as a general class of behavior that exists across species to different degrees of complexity. Emotional contagion refers to an emotional state in an observer as a direct result of perceiving the emotional state of another, and it is the most basic expression of this emotional linkage or “physiological linkage”. Dyadic relationships are also characterized by an emotional or physiological linkage between individuals. The mother-offspring relationship offers the most basic example of this capacity. Empathy is thought to be more generally exercised across the life span in many mammals. Empathy impairments in psychopathy and autism are thought to be a disruption in the prefrontal system.

Keywords:   empathy, emotional linkage, physiological linkage, dyadic relationships, mother-offspring relationship

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