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TED Quotes

Moral behaviour in animals

If you ask anyone, what is morality based on? These are the two factors that always come out: One is reciprocity … and a sense of fairness, and the other one is empathy and compassion. — Frans de Waal

Synopsis

Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioural tests on primates and other mammals, which show how many moral traits like empathy and cooperation all of us share. Talk recorded 4 November 2011.

About the Speaker

Dr Frans de Waal is a biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982), compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His popular books – translated into fifteen languages – have made him one of the world’s most visible primatologists. His latest books are Our Inner Ape (2005, Riverhead) and The Age of Empathy (2009, Harmony).

De Waal is C H Candler Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center, in Atlanta. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (US), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today, and in 2011 by Discover as among 47 (all time) Great Minds of Science.

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