Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Young apes manage emotions like humans do

Date:
October 14, 2013
Source:
Emory Health Sciences
Summary:
Researchers studying young bonobos in an African sanctuary have discovered striking similarities between the emotional development of the bonobos and that of children, suggesting these great apes regulate their emotions in a human-like way. This is important to human evolutionary history because it shows the socio-emotional framework commonly applied to children works equally well for apes.

Bonobos. Researchers studying young bonobos in an African sanctuary have discovered striking similarities between the emotional development of the bonobos and that of children, suggesting these great apes regulate their emotions in a human-like way.
Credit: Pascal Martin / Fotolia

Researchers studying young bonobos in an African sanctuary have discovered striking similarities between the emotional development of the bonobos and that of children, suggesting these great apes regulate their emotions in a human-like way. This is important to human evolutionary history because it shows the socio-emotional framework commonly applied to children works equally well for apes. Using this framework, researchers can test predictions of great ape behavior and, as in the case of this study, confirm humans and apes share many aspects of emotional functioning.

Zanna Clay, PhD, and Frans de Waal, PhD, of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, conducted the study at a bonobo sanctuary near Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The results are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Detailed video analysis of daily social life at the sanctuary allowed Clay and de Waal to measure how bonobos handle their own emotions as well as how they react to the emotions of others. They found the two were related in that bonobos that recovered quickly and easily from their own emotional upheavals, such as after losing a fight, showed more empathy for their fellow great apes. Clay notes those bonobos more often gave body comfort (kissing, embracing, touching) to those in distress.

The bonobo (Pan paniscus), one of our closest primate relatives, is as genetically similar to humans as is the chimpanzee. The bonobo is widely considered the most empathic great ape, a conclusion brain research supports. "This makes the species an ideal candidate for psychological comparisons," says de Waal. "Any fundamental similarity between humans and bonobos probably traces back to their last common ancestor, which lived around six million years ago," he continues.

If the way bonobos handle their own emotions predicts how they react to those of others, this hints at emotion regulation, such as the ability to temper strong emotions and avoid over-arousal. In children, emotion regulation is crucial for healthy social development. Socially competent children keep the ups and downs of their emotions within bounds. A stable parent-child bond is essential for this, which is why human orphans typically have trouble managing their emotions.

The bonobo sanctuary in this study includes many victims of bushmeat hunting. Human substitute mothers care for the juvenile bonobos that were forcefully removed at an early age from their bonobo mothers. This care continues for years until the bonobos are transferred to a forested enclosure with bonobos of all ages. "Compared to peers reared by their own mothers, the orphans have difficulty managing emotional arousal," says Clay. She observed how the orphans would take a long time recovering from distress: "They would be very upset, screaming for minutes after a fight compared to mother-reared juveniles, who would snap out of it in seconds."

"Animal emotions have long been scientifically taboo," says de Waal, but he stresses how such studies that zoom in on emotions can provide valuable information about humans and our society. "By measuring the expression of distress and arousal in great apes, and how they cope, we were able to confirm that efficient emotion regulation is an essential part of empathy. Empathy allows great apes and humans to absorb the distress of others without getting overly distressed themselves," continues de Waal. He says this also explains why orphan bonobos, which have experienced trauma that hampers emotional development, are less socially competent than their mother-raised peers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Emory Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zanna Clay and Frans B. M. de Waal. Development of socio-emotional competence in bonobos. PNAS, October 14, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1316449110

Cite This Page:

Emory Health Sciences. "Young apes manage emotions like humans do." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131014155739.htm>.
Emory Health Sciences. (2013, October 14). Young apes manage emotions like humans do. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131014155739.htm
Emory Health Sciences. "Young apes manage emotions like humans do." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131014155739.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins