ElI5 Why do humans feel pity for creatures weaker than them?

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When an animal sees a creature weaker than itself, it’ll take it as an oppurtunity to kill and eat said creature. However, when a human sees a creature weaker than itself, like lets say, a small animal dying of heatstroke on the road during a hot summer day, the human will often help the creature, despite having no benefit in doing so. Why is this? For literally every animal except herbivores, the natural instinct would push you to kill and consume said creature without a second thought, why are humans different? O**bviously I know this isn’t universally applicable**, hunters enjoy killing creatures that are defenseless, but MOST people, from my experience atleast, don’t feel any bloodlust or hunger or any instinctual push to kill when confronted with a weak creature that is struggling, but rather compassion.

In: Biology

6 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Compassion for humans is a survival trait

Having compassion for our children, family, and friends is what allows us to operate in family groups. Humans don’t survive long alone, we thrive as a species because we are able to work together and care for each other when injured and sick.

We don’t abandon each other to the weather when we are sick and injured.

Our compassion also extends to animals likely because we are hardwired to feel that way, after all we treat pets as if they are our children, feed them and care for them.

This is what likely lead us to domestication animals like dogs, and cows in the first place.

Where this ends is when we are hungry. We are perfectly capable of killing one of the animals under our care to eat them.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Being a social species is our number one thing above all else. You can say we shouldn’t be and should just eat the road animal, but welp, social species won

Anonymous 0 Comments

Really cool question and I can’t wait to read from others who know more. my hunches for possible reasons though are we have used animals as tools for a very long time. So caring for animals could be helpful to our success as a species. And I wonder how much has to do with the other animals ability to express itself through facial emotions. I think the care for a sick dog on the road would be different than a bug struggling or a fish out of water.

Anonymous 0 Comments

As many are saying, we are a social species. You help out the weak in your tribe because one day you will catch the flu, or malaria, or dengue or a kidney stone etc., and then they will take care of you. Also because if they survive and get better then they can forage food or hunt food to feed the tribe. Everyone wins. This is our super power.

This compassion habit can extend over to other species in many (but not all) of us.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It is actually a big misunderstanding about animals. Sure, there is a lot of fighting and hunting within animals, but there is an equal amount of cooperation, even between species.

Another thing is that it always depends on the context of the animal. Cute little bunny? Of course we feel pity, it’s not inconveniencing us, but a smaller, weaker groundhog digging up your backyard? They sell explosives for that. It’s not always as black and white as it seems

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’m willing to bet that this is more of a modern phenomenon that’s resulted from our current attitudes around animals. 

Animal rights and pet culture have allowed us to develop more compassion around animals. 

Do you have pity for a struggling spider? Most people don’t. Another poster was correct in stating that this applies to “cute” animals.