Extending empathy research towards animals

H. Rae Westbury*, David L. Neumann, Allison M. Waters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


The questions of whether and how people show empathy towards non-human animals and what factors influence the expression of this empathy are important for several reasons. It is relevant for initiatives that seek to increase prosocial behaviours for the purpose of protecting endangered species and conserving natural environments. Further, the study of empathic processes underlying the therapeutic relationships of human and non-human animal companions will help reveal the mechanisms responsible for positive changes in physiological and psychological states. The interaction between children and animals that influence empathy development are also an important area for further research because lack of empathy may underlie childhood behavioural problems. The present chapter examines research bearing upon the question of empathy towards non-human animals. Positive and negative human-animal interactions are discussed in addition to human-animal relations research that has specifically focused on empathy-related responses. Contemporary conceptualisations of empathy are used as a framework to interpret this research. The review finishes with a discussion of applications of human-animal empathy research and a list of recommendations for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of empathy
EditorsDanielle J. Scapaletti
Place of PublicationHauppauge, NY
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781622570126
ISBN (Print)9781612097947
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NamePsychology of emotions, motivations and actions

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  • Cite this

    Westbury, H. R., Neumann, D. L., & Waters, A. M. (2011). Extending empathy research towards animals. In D. J. Scapaletti (Ed.), Psychology of empathy (pp. 93-118). (Psychology of emotions, motivations and actions). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.