Thursday, May 02, 2013

Canine Empathy

Research has confirmed what many dog owners probably already know, that dogs react sympathetically when human beings show distress:

Dogs Feel Your Pain

The experiment confirmed that the dogs weren’t just reacting to strange behavior, such as tuneless humming. When a person pretended to cry, whether somebody the animal was familiar with or not, the typical dog would offer comforting gestures such as nuzzling and licking. Because we have bred dogs over many generations to pay attention to human behavioral signals, they have become attuned to our emotions. Doubtless the fact that they're pack animals—social creatures like ourselves—helped in their development of this gift.

Do cats (more solitary creatures) ever react to human sadness? I can’t remember any of our cats doing so. Does that mean intelligent aliens who’ve evolved from non-gregarious species would feel somehow "wrong" to us because they're deficient in empathy? Conversely, Jacqueline wrote a novel under a pseudonym, HERO, about a solitary alien species whose members, when they come into contact with Terrans, regard our willingness to risk ourselves for the good of others as a symptom of madness.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. My dog Baxter, a YorkiexMaltese, has predicted several of my husband's more serious foot infections. He jumped on hubby, attempts to lick his face over and over, very different behavior than normal. The next day hubby would be in the ER getting hooked up to IV antibiotics.

    A cat-like alien, affectionate on their terms, but beautiful and athletic... They might also have vermin killing skills that would ensure a human's survival. So marrying one just might be worth it. ;) Arg, plot bunny!