Sunday, July 2, 2006

Mice capable of basis for empathy

Just in case you might have ever wondered, there is verification that even rodents have the some of the basic components necessary for empathy...
New Pain Research Shows Mice Capable Of Empathy

A new study by McGill University professor of psychology Dr. Jeffrey Mogil shows that the capacity for empathy, previously suspected but unproven even among higher primates, is also evident in lower mammals.

In research published online June 29 in the journal Science, Professor Mogil, graduate student Dale Langford and their colleagues in the Pain Genetics Lab at McGill University discovered that mice that were co-housed (that is, familiar to each other) and able to see one another in pain were more sensitive to pain than those tested alone...


Of course, it would be nice to verify that certain humans have this capacity, but some things are dependent on faith ;o)


  1. This is an interesting topic ... with respect to humans.

    "Humans without capacity for empathy" is the definition of sociopaths [formerly, "psychopaths"]. According to the recent book by Harvard psychologist Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door, 4% of Americans are sociopaths! Once you read about them and understand what their lives are like, it makes the whole world a stranger place.

    In the new movie "The Devil Wears Prada," Meryl Streep plays a sociopath, and the filmmakers, to their great credit, knew what they were doing in this regard. Many of the cues to a person bereft of empathy are a part of the 'Miranda Priestly' character.

    Knowing that what the filmmakers and star were attempting to show -- a character incapable of empathy -- makes the movie quite interesting.

    **SPOILER WARNING WARNING SPOILER** Near the end of the film, 'Miranda Priestly' says to her young assistant "Everybody envies us; everybody wants to be like us" when she is justifying her viscious conduct and conduct from her assistant that also *seemed* to be aggressive and uncaring. But her assistant balks, saying 'wait; I'm NOT like you.'

    A sociopath doesn't HAVE empathy, AND doesn't understand it or believe it in others. A sociopath typically can ACT in an empathetic way EXTREMELY WELL. BUT this all comes from copying others. Real empathy is as foreign and impossible for them to imagine as the color red is to a blind man.

    It is a strange world.

    There are implications in this for Buddhism. A sociopath is truly incapable of understanding Buddhism.

  2. This is also an interesting topic ... with respect to mice.

    It was a mouse that pulled that thorn out of the lion's paw, yes?

    Also, I am quite certain that my bird friends, particularly the peanut-loving scrub jays, are caring. Certainly, birds care about their young, and their protectiveness seems to have, at root, empathy for the stresses of being a baby bird.

    I feel quite sure my scrubby pals love me -- it's not just the nuts! Surely, they worry about me and want me to be happy.

    Magpies, on the other hand, might well all be sociopaths. Crazy maggies!

  3. Yeah, they also had a story several months ago confirming that some dogs really do smile when they are happy, which I already know because my Poo grins when he really excited and happy. What a silly face he makes!

  4. But seriously. We have learned that birds' brains are much more complex than was thought. The corvidae have been shown to be particularly smart.

    Scrub jays are the first animals shown to have a theory of mind.

  5. Dogs do seem to smile when they are happy, but then I consider dogs to be humans -- which is rather insulting, I know, to the dog.


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