They took a group of largely untrained pets of mostly mixed breeds and of different sexes. The researchers set up a situation with the dog’s owner and a stranger interacted with the dog. The owner and the stranger would alternately talk, hum in an odd way, or cry. Fifteen of the eighteen dogs in the study sought the person in distress even if it was a stranger. On the surface, it appears that they were empathizing with humans, but more research is needed.
Then, how about wild animals? Do they show empathy toward humans? Koko, the gorilla who has been taught sign language, has shown what appears to be empathy. Koko was watching a movie with Dr. Penny Patterson. In this movie, a young orphaned boy, who had been raised by an older woman with help from a group of her friends, had to say goodbye to this orphaned boy as he got on a train. He was sent to live with his estranged father and to attend school. At this point in the movie, Koko turned away from the movie and was distraught. Koko signed "trouble, bad, sad, mother..." Koko's eyes expressed her emotion. She has watched this movie several times and when it gets to the sad part, she turns away. Dr. Patterson, who has spent years working with Koko, believes she has a wide range of emotions that are similar to those of humans. Scientific studies will be done on Koko's awareness and responsiveness to her own emotions and to the emotions of others. It will be interesting to see the results!
Another story about elephants was told by renowned elephant researcher Joyce Poole. A herder had his leg accidently broken by a matriarch. The herder could not walk. The matriarch, using her trunk and front feet, gently moved him a short distance and propped him up under a tree. The matriarch would occasionally touch him with her trunk. The matriarch stayed watch on him all night, even though her family had left. Did the elephant understand the feelings of this man? Again, nobody knows for sure, but it sure seems that she did.
There is so much about animals that we really don't understand. When I look at animals, many times I wonder what they are thinking. Maybe with more research, we will better be able to understand the minds of animals. #empathy #Koko #elephant