PublicationsEmotional contagion and prosocial behavior in rodents
Empathy is critical to adjusting our behavior to the state of others. The past decade dramatically deepened our understanding of the biological origin of this capacity. We now understand that rodents robustly show emotional contagion for the distress of others via neural structures homologous to those involved in human empathy. Their propensity to approach others in distress strengthens this effect. Although rodents can also learn to favor behaviors that benefit others via structures overlapping with those of emotional contagion, they do so less reliably and more selectively. Together, this suggests evolution selected mechanisms for emotional contagion to prepare animals for dangers by using others as sentinels. Such shared emotions additionally can, under certain circumstances, promote prosocial behavior.