Empathy and evolution : interspecies emotional recognition and facial mimicry in humans

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Empathy is a crucial social phenomenon part of our everyday life. Our ability to access what others are feeling or thinking is essential to the success of every interaction we take part on. Even though lots of scientific interest exists regarding empathy from many different disciplines, no integration of evidence and knowledge between these areas has been achieved. Still no clear definition exist about this central social phenomenon at the foundation of how we interact and understand others. In particular poor integration exist between psychology and evolution still nowadays. The aim of this thesis is to assess the evolutive antiquity of empathy through the exploration of inter-species empathy. Specifically inter-species facial mimicry and emotion facial recognition studies were run to investigate the existence of inter-species empathy and its evolutive origin. Results show only partial support to the hypothesis by showing humans are able to recognize only part of the chimpanzee facial repertoire. Facial mimicry results show no mimicry in the experimental or control condition, possibly due to methodological issues related to contextual modulation. Result from the theoretical manuscript makes visible the benefits of inter-disciplinary integration in the study of empathy by taking together contributions of both evolutive-biology and phenomenology. Finally the present thesis makes a sensible effort, despite mixed experimental results, to integrate different aspects of empathy to study its evolutive origins.
Tesis (Doctor of Psychology)--Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2018