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Are Animals Capable of Deception or Empathy? Implications for Animal Consciousness and Animal Welfare

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Awareness of the self and awareness of others are difficult faculties to define. Part of the problem lies in the wide range of abilities that involve various aspects of awareness. Some of the most commonly studied abilities focus on the self-awareness of the individual. These abilities range from the capacity to distinguish self from non-self to the competency to reflect on one's past, present or future condition. Another set of abilities that is relevant to the study of awareness involves the interactions of individuals, and includes behaviours such as deception and empathy. We explore the possibility that species other than humans engage in deception and empathy, and consider the implications of such behaviours for self-awareness and other-awareness in these species. Although examples from a variety of species are provided, many examples come from dolphins and whales. This reflects both the authors' interest in these animals and the possibility that large-brained creatures are more likely to engage in deliberate deception and/or true empathy.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2001

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