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Frans B.M. de Waal, Living Links, Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, and Psychology Department, Emory University, Atlanta, USA, and University of Utrecht, the Netherlands

Detail Summary
Date 26 May 2015
Time 16:00 - 18:00

The possibility that animals have empathy and sympathy has received little attention due to two factors.  One is that evolutionary biology, until recently, emphasized "nature red in tooth and claw" with little room for kindness. The second has been an excessive fear of anthropomorphism and a taboo on the term "emotion" in relation to animals. Both of these influences take little account of actual animal behavior, which would lead one to agree with Darwin that "Many animals certainly sympathize with each other's distress or danger." In my own work with monkeys, apes, and elephants, I have found many cases of one individual coming to another's aid in a fight, putting an arm around a previous victim of attack, or other emotional responses to the distress of others. In fact, the entire communication system of nonhuman primates is emotionally mediated. Here, I will review expressions of empathy in animals, which ranges from a core mechanism of emotional linkage (known as emotional contagion) to higher levels of perspective-taking and targeted helping. This increases the effectiveness of sympathetic support, care, and reassurance. I will also discuss the sense of fairness in animals, including the Ultimatum Game which we recently played with chimpanzees.


Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal is a Dutch/American biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982) compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His popular books - translated into many languages - have made him one of the world's most visible primatologists. His latest books are The Age of Empathy (2009, Harmony) and The Bonobo and the Atheist (Norton, 2013).


De Waal is C. H. Candler Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (US), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today, and in 2011 by Discover as among 47 (all time) Great Minds of Science.


Room M1.03 

Roeterseilandcampus - gebouw M
Roeterseilandcampus - gebouw M

Plantage Muidergracht 12
1018 TV Amsterdam