Intra- and inter-species interactions: a neuroscientific perspective on empathy towards humans and animals

Maria Elide Vanutelli, Michela Balconi

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno


Empathy commonly refers to the emotional concern aroused by the affective state of another living person; nevertheless our daily relationships are characterized by interactions with both human and animal companions. Borrowing from standard definitions, empathy toward animals would consist of cognitive and affective components which respectively refer to recognizing and understanding an animal’s emotion, as well as to sharing and having emotional responses in line with its affective states. Research revealed that relationships with pets provide opportunities to develop empathy, and that childhood involvement with pets is related to more favorable attitudes toward animals later in life: in fact, because animals lack the verbal ability to communicate their concerns, humans must develop complex skills to understand their needs and desires. Nevertheless the neural correlates underlying these mechanisms have still to be explored and understood. The present study aimed to investigate common and specific neural correlates related to the processing of intra and interspecies interactions; particular attention was given to the valence of both interactions (positive, negative, neutral), as well as to motivational and personality components. A multi-method approach was applied and hemodynamic (NIRS), electrocortical (EEG) and autonomic measures were simultaneously recorded. Results in this study evidence the presence of both common and specific patterns for intra and interspecies interactions and suggest an alternative channel for the development of empathic competencies through the interactions with animals, with clinical and therapeutic implications.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteProgram of «The 14th European Congress of Psychology»
Numero di pagine1
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2015
EventoThe 14th European Congress of Psychology - Milano
Durata: 7 lug 201510 lug 2015


ConvegnoThe 14th European Congress of Psychology


  • EEG
  • Empathy
  • Inter-species
  • fNIRS


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