Frans de Waal Professor of Primate Behavior

Emory University


Frans de Waal is a primatologist who is fascinated by what primate behavior can teach us about humankind. De Waal is renowned for his study of bonobos—those close relatives of chimpanzees who pursue a “make love not war” policy of social behavior—as well as for seeking the keys to understanding what binds primate societies together. As part of his interest in social cohesion, de Waal has done extensive research into empathy in non-human primates. Rather than sharply distinguishing humans from other primates, de Waal says, empathy and cooperation exist in all of our close relatives. In 2011, de Waal found that, when given a choice between helping only themselves versus helping themselves and a partner, chimpanzees chose the latter. He even believes that empathy, to a greater or lesser degree, is a universal characteristic of mammals. De Waal has long asserted that understanding empathy and other emotions in animals, a topic of controversy, is essential for understanding ourselves. As he puts it, “To endow animals with human emotions has long been a scientific taboo. But if we do not, we risk missing something fundamental, about both animals and us.”

Our Inner Ape
The Bonobo and the Atheist
The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society
Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved
Animal Social Complexity: Intelligence, Culture, and Individualized Societies
My Family Album, Thirty Years of Primate Photography
Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us about Human Social Evolution
The Ape and the Sushi Master
Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes
Natural Conflict Resolution
Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape
Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals
Chimpanzee Cultures
Peacemaking Among Primates


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