Empathy and Prosocial Behaviours. Insights from Intra- and Inter-species Interactions

Maria Elide Vanutelli, Michela Balconi


Abstract: It has been suggested that “sharing the same body” between the observer and the observed subject allows for a direct form of understanding and emotional attuning by a process of simulation. Then, what happens when we don’t share the same body? The aim of the present paper is to review available evidence of intra- and inter-species empathic and prosocial behaviours, with respect to within-human, within-animals and cross-specifies interactions. Similarities and differences will be evaluated using a comparative perspective, and some possible moral and ethical implications for human-animal interactions will be discussed. According to Charles Darwin’s work, the perceived differences between human and animal empathy could be more quantitative than qualitative, suggesting a common affective core which allows both categories to mirror and tune to conspecifics’ feelings, where in the case of humans it can be integrated with more complex cognitive processes.

Keywords: Empathy; Emotion; Prosocial Behaviours; Intra- and Inter-species Interaction.


Empatia e comportamenti prosociali. Evidenze dalle interazioni intra- e interspecie

Riassunto: Si è ipotizzato che la “condivisione di correlati corporei” tra soggetto osservante e soggetto osservato permetta una forma diretta di comprensione e sintonizzazione emotiva mediante un processo di simulazione. E quindi, che cosa accade quando non condividiamo lo stesso corpo? Scopo di questo lavoro è fornire una rassegna delle evidenze disponibili circa i comportamenti empatici e prosociali intra- e inter-specie, in relazione alle interazioni tra umani, tra animali e inter-specie. Similarità e differenze saranno valutate secondo un’ottica comparativa e verranno discusse alcune possibili implicazioni morali ed etiche sul piano delle interazioni tra umani e animali. Secondo quanto suggerito da Charles Darwin, le differenze percepite tra l’empatia umana e quella animale potrebbe essere più di tipo quantitativo che qualitativo, deponendo a favore di un comune nucleo affettivo che permetterebbe a entrambe le categorie di riflettersi e sintonizzarsi con i sentimenti dei propri conspecifici, dove, nel caso degli umani, questo nucleo potrebbe essere integrato con processi cognitivi più complessi.

Parole chiave: Empatia; Emozione; Comportamenti prosociali; Interazioni intra- e inter-specie.

Parole chiave

Empathy; Emotion; Prosocial Behaviours; Intra- and Inter-species Interaction

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4453/rifp.2015.0007

Copyright (c) 2015 Maria Elide Vanutelli, Michela Balconi

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