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Biodiversity and perception alterity

30 Apr 2021 - Aurélien Miralles, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris | 15h30
Biodiversity and perception alterity

Currently the planet is inhabited by several millions of extremely diversified species. Not all of them arouse emotions of the same nature or intensity in humans. Little is known about the extent of our affective responses toward them and the factors that may explain these differences. Our online survey involved 3500 raters who had to make choices depending on specific questions designed to either assess their empathic perceptions or their compassionate reactions toward an extended photographic sampling of organisms. Results show a strong negative correlation between empathy scores and the divergence time separating them from us. However, beyond a certain time of divergence, our empathic perceptions stabilize at a minimum level. Compassion scores, although based on less spontaneous choices, remain strongly correlated to empathy scores and time of divergence. The mosaic of features characterizing humans has been acquired gradually over the course of the evolution, and the phylogenetically closer a species is to us, the more it shares common traits with us. Our results could be explained by the fact that many of these traits may arouse sensory biases. These anthropomorphic signals could be able to mobilize cognitive circuitry and to trigger prosocial behaviors usually at work in human relationships.

Aurélien Miralles is a French herpetologist, phylogeneticist and taxonomist. He is a specialist in the systematics of the Scincidae lizards, and is also interested in the adaptation to the burrowing lifestyle, a phenomenon recurrently observed in squamates (e.g. limb regression). In addition, several of his research projects focus on methodological and theoretical aspects of taxonomic practice. More recently, he starts working on a very different topic, i.e. the sensory and emotional perceptions of humans in contact with the diversity of Life, topic addressed in this webinar.

[Host: Raquel Vasconcelos, Conservation Genetics and Wildlife Management - CONGEN]

Click here to watch the webinar recording

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