- The everyday world is quite different. Although life as it's lived on the ground, close to home, is peppered with suffering, stresses, injustices, and foul play, it is, for the most part, lived out in hundreds of small acts of kindness and generosity. Comfort and compassion between people creates goodwill, establishes the bonds of sociality, and gives joy to people's lives. Much of our daily interaction with our fellow human beings is empathic because that is our core nature. Empathy is the very means by which we create social life and advance civilization. In short, it is the extraordinary evolution of empathic consciousness that is the quintessential underlying story of human history, even if it has not been given the serious attention it deserves by our historians.
Empathic distress is as old as our species and is traceable far back into our ancestral past, to our link with our primate relatives and, before them, our mammalian ancestors. It is only very recently, however, that biologists and cognitive scientists have begun to discover primitive behavioral manifestations of empathy throughout the mammalian kingdom, among animals that nurture their young. They report that primates, and especially humans, with our more developed neocortex, are particularly wired for empathy.