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Can ravens feel empathy?

by savannah
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Have you ever been in a bad mood and that put your partner or friend in a bad mood too? Then just as you were sorting your bad mood out their bad mood put you back in a bad mood? Emotions are an incredibly complex driver of human behavior that we are only at the surface level of understanding. One thing we do know is that our emotional complexity is vastly superior to most animals. Yet the more research we do, the more we find surprises from different animals about their level of cognitive ability. The raven is a standout example.

The raven is a bird known for its intelligence and problem-solving ability. Studies have shown that ravens have the same level of smarts as dolphins or chimpanzees. Recently a study examined if ravens can share emotions too. The aim of the study was to find out if one raven felt bad or good whether another raven could feel the same emotion as a result. This would be a building block towards understanding if a raven could feel empathy.

The study placed two foods in separate boxes. One food that the raven enjoyed and one it disliked. The food was given to a raven and when they opened the box their satisfaction was noted. Ravens that were given the food they liked appeared happy, interested in their food, spent more time with it, etc. Ravens that were given foot that they disliked appeared more unhappy; less quick in their movement, scratching or kicking away the box. Nothing amazing so far – animals happy when given food that it likes.

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What was amazing was that the study had another raven watching the experiment taking place. The raven who saw an unhappy raven became less interested in having a box at all. What was most interesting was that the raven appeared to adopt negative emotion only but had no change in the reaction after witnessing a positive transaction. The study is another indicator of just how intelligent ravens are and how they process emotions. It looks like humans aren’t the only ones to feel cranky for no reason.

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