It turned out that animals show empathy for all their brethren, but are ready to save only acquaintances

It turned out that animals show empathy for all their brethren, but are ready to save only acquaintances
It turned out that animals show empathy for all their brethren, but are ready to save only acquaintances
Anonim

Scientists from Israel have found that rescuing a member of their own social group triggers centers of motivation and social reward in the brains of rats. However, these parts of the brain do not work at all when it comes to individuals they are not familiar with.

It often seems to us that empathy is only a human trait, but this is not at all true.

“Humans, like many other creatures, tend to help their friends and relatives, rather than those with whom they are unfamiliar. This can have negative consequences in societies where different groups must work together to thrive,”says the first author of the work, Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, professor of psychology at the University of Tel Aviv, Israel. "Understanding the brain mechanisms behind these biases is essential to finding ways to address them."

To investigate these mechanisms, Barthal and his team decided to conduct several experiments with rats. They put animals in a situation where either a familiar individual or an unfamiliar one was trapped. During the experiments, most of the rodents learned to free the familiar comrade, but only a few saved the stranger.

After the team was convinced that the rats were helping each other, they studied the brain activity associated with this behavior. So scientists discovered that certain areas of the brain are activated in response to the suffering of another individual, which means that rodents show empathy, both for acquaintances and not. However, areas of the brain associated with seeking reward and positive social experiences were only turned on when the “friend” was in distress.

Scientists have previously proven that among people, empathy for other members of the group causes a greater desire to help them than strangers. “We have provided the first evidence of a common biological mechanism governing empathic help behavior in humans and rats in response to the suffering of friends,” concludes Daniela Kaufer, another author of the paper. "Our results set the stage for future research that can better understand the associated brain activity and why it makes us choose to help some people over others."

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