Rich AltherrComment

2017: A Year of Elephant Empathy

Rich AltherrComment
2017: A Year of Elephant Empathy

As 2016 draws to a close, I reserved some reflection time prior to 2017’s grand opening.  I pondered the following questions: Have I accomplished my goals?  What am I grateful for?  Did I live genuinely? Are there other organisms who are self-aware and ponder their existence? What can we learn from those organisms?  While I won’t bore you with a detailed assessment of the past year, I encourage you to set aside some time to reflect upon your own 2016.  

Researchers have used a “mirror test” developed in the 1970s to assess if an organism is self-aware.  Does an animal recognize its reflection as another organisms or as itself?  Does an organism notice a researcher’s mark in the organisms reflection, and does the organism respond by touching the mark?  Some organisms that passed the mirror test include: elephants, apes, dolphins, whales, magpies, and ants.  While the mirror test is not a definite indication of self-awareness, it does suggest an evolutionary stepping stone toward varying degrees of self-reflection. 

Besides passing the "mirror test", the elephant has also been shown to manifest empathy much like primates.  Perhaps 2017 could be the year of the elephant to re-invigorate our empathy in 2017.  Here are a few elephant-inspired considerations to have an 2017:

  • Community: Work together to achieve mutual goals of success and vibrancy.
  • Support: Give love in the form of a caring touch, emotional reassurance, and just listening.
  • Serve: Help others with their challenges and to remove obstacles for empowered living.

Nature Comes Standard wishes you an amazing 2017!

References:

Plotnik, Joshua M., de Waal, Frans B. M., and Reiss, Diana. Self-recognition in an Asian elephant. Biological Sciences - Psychology.2006 103 (45) 17053-17057; doi:10.1073/pnas.0608062103

http://www.animalcognition.org/2015/04/15/list-of-animals-that-have-passed-the-mirror-test/

Byrne, Richard; Lee, P.C.; Njiraini, N.; Poole, J.H.; Sayialel, K.; Sayialel, S.; Bates, L.A.; Moss, C.J. Do Elephants Show Empathy? Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 15, Numbers 10-11, 2008, pp. 204-225(22)