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article imageChimps use eyes to show empathy

By Tim Sandle     Aug 30, 2014 in Science
Amsterdam - New research suggests that Chimpanzees may reinforce social bonds with each other by involuntarily mimicking a fellow chimp’s pupil size.
Chimpanzees possess a capacity to unconsciously dilate their pupils to match those of another chimpanzee. Humans are the only other mammal known to possess this ability.
The changes to the pupils appears to be a means of communicating sympathy and strengthen social bonds within groups. This means that both humans and chimps imitate each other’s facial expressions, eye blinks, or pupil size to convey empathy.
With the research, New Scientist reports, eight chimp and eighteen human participants were shown images of both human and chimp eyes with either dilated or constricted pupils. The researchers found that both humans and chimps mimicked pupil dilation more strongly in response to their own species, although the reaction was slightly stronger in humans. Overall, the effect was also the strongest in mothers.
The study was led by Mariska Kret of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The findings have been published in the journal PLoS One, in a paper titled "Chimpanzees and Humans Mimic Pupil-Size of Conspecifics".
That chimps have a capacity for empathy has been shown in previous studies. Researchers from LJMU's School of Biological Sciences in the U.K. have analysed how chimpanzees behave after a fight. They found that third-party chimpanzees will try to console the 'victim' of the fight by grooming, hugging and kissing, according to the conservation group One Kind.
More about Chimps, Chimpanzee, Empathy, Emotions
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