Empathy and Donation Behavior Toward Happy and Sad Chimpanzees

Nils-Torge Telle & Hans-Rüdiger Pfister
Institute of Experimental Industrial Psychology, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany 

Past research indicates a moderate but robust relationship between human empathy and empathy toward animals. Further, it has been shown that human empathy is associated with more positive attitudes toward animals. What has not been researched, however, is human- and animal-directed empathy in combination with actual animal-directed helping behavior. Here, we report two studies with which we begin to fill this gap by assessing human trait and affective state empathy toward sad and happy chimpanzees and subsequent donations to a chimpanzee conservation project. Both studies involved between subject designs and college students samples, with study 1 (n = 405) having been an online study and study 2 (n= 121) having been conducted in a controlled laboratory environment. In study 1, we used a probabilistic donation measure, whereas in study 2, participants could actually donate some of their participation fee. Although our results show that neither human trait nor animal-directed state empathy predicted donation behavior, we found that moral attitudes as well as past donations were predictive of probabilistic donation behavior. Interestingly, happy and sad chimpanzees elicited equally high monetary donations. We discuss our results in light of the potentially different underlying mechanisms that trigger animal-directed helping behavior.

Read the full article here.