In human children, research has indicated that orphans have a hard time bouncing back quickly from an emotional setback. This study points to the same patterns in young bonobos.
Bonobos, which along with chimpanzees are humans' closest living relatives, can be quick with a sympathetic hug and quick to recover from their own stressful events. And they have their mothers to thank for it.
That's the upshot of a new study of behavior among bonobos – primates that researchers have found to host remarkably humanlike abilities to empathize or to forgo aggression for cooperation in a society that gives females higher status than males.
In the past, studies of empathy and an ability to console others among bonobos have focused on who is giving and receiving comfort and under what circumstances, explains Frans de Waal, who heads the Living Links program at Emory University's Yerkes Primate National Research Center in Atlanta. The studies also have looked for parallels between bonobos and young children on these points.
But researchers had yet to explore the emotional traits among individual bonobos that are needed to develop empathy, explains Dr. de Waal, who was one of two Emory researchers conducting the study.
In human children, studies have indicated that orphans have a hard time keeping their emotions in check or bouncing back quickly from an emotional setback, compared with children raised by at least a mother, if not both parents. This study points to the same patterns in young bonobos.