A new study reveals that prairie voles console loved ones who are feeling stressed — and it appears that the infamous “love hormone,” oxytocin, is the underlying mechanism. Until now, consolation behavior has only been documented in a few nonhuman species with high levels of sociality and cognition, such as elephants, dolphins and dogs. More.
One difficulty with discussing such issues is anthropomorphism, that is, ascribing states of mind to animals that are probably unique to humans.
Animals doubtless have empathy; after all, tortoises can put upended tortoises back on their feet. But reason and moral sense are different from empathy, in that they require some level of abstraction.
Moral sense, for example, may compel the view that one ought to help even when one does not feel like it. One is not forced to help but rather feels it as a duty. And there may not be much oxytocin on offer.
See also: Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds
Animal minds: In search of the minimal self
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