Humans Aren’t The Only Ones Who Help a Stranger in Need

We have all been on the receiving end of a stranger’s kindness. Opening doors for us when our hands are full, picking up something we dropped on the floor, ushering us ahead in a checkout line if we only have a handful of items… these gestures all can make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Yet it isn’t only humans who have been observed helping out a stranger in need without expecting anything in return. New research is shedding light on how our closest cousins often lend a helping hand to others, as well.

Scientists at Duke University set out to see just how far bonobos would extend their kindness to unfamiliar individuals. Bonobos are relatives of the common chimpanzee and are often studied for their fascinating social behavior. These apes also share 99 percent of their DNA with humans, meaning it isn’t that surprising that we have such similarities with one another.

Researchers who put forth these most recent findings were focused on expanding upon previous observations on bonobos, which determined that they are likely to help others. The recent study, published in Scientific Reports, oversaw experiments where bonobos were led into one of two rooms separated by a fence. Over one of the rooms was a hanging piece of apple that was inaccessible unless an ape in the adjacent room climbed the fence and released it onto the floor. The bonobos released the apple for an unfamiliar ape in the next room four times more often than when the room was empty.

Not only that, but it was discovered that they helped their stranger get a hold of the food if they gestured for help just as often as when they didn’t gesture for help. So, the urge to assist a stranger seems to have some roots in the subconscious. Bolstering this point is an additional experiment where bonobos viewed videos of both familiar and unfamiliar apes yawning. It was found that the observing ape mimicked the yawn at the same rate, no matter if they knew the ape in the video or not. It is commonly thought that yawns being “contagious”Ě is rooted in a basic form of empathy for others.

“All relationships start between two strangers,”Ě Jingzhi Tan, study researcher and then postdoctoral associate in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University told Science Daily. In species where empathy has evolved into helping strangers, it is believed the benefits outweigh the potential threats. “You meet a stranger, but you may meet them again, and this individual could become your future friend or ally. You want to be nice to someone who’s going to be important for you.”

Related:
Do Vegans and Vegetarians Have More Empathy?
What Makes a Person Compassionate?
10 Reasons to Volunteer Today

Photo credit: Thinkstock

80 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S5 days ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 days ago

thanks

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Lesa D
Lesa Dabout a month ago

we would be extremely arrogant to think only we have compassion...

thank you Katie...

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Mike R
Mike Rabout a month ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike Rabout a month ago

Thanks

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Melania P
Melania Pabout a month ago

Wild animals are more evolved than we think/know. We are not that special....

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Danii P
Danii P2 months ago

thank you for sharing!

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Danii P
Danii P2 months ago

thanks

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Denise S
Denise S2 months ago

Enjoyable! Please be kind to animals, they bring joy!

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Danii P
Danii P2 months ago

thank you.

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