Patient Doctor Relationship Series: Consolation Reduces Stress

Consolation calms recipients of aggression and it is more likely to be offered
by valuable partners. Consolation can be an alternative to reconciliation as a stress-alleviation mechanism. In chimpanzees, but why shouldn’t it be also applicable to humans. My gut feeling says it can. Moreover the results of this recent study could easily be applied to humans, what do you think, let me know in the comments.

The next post in this series will be on Wednesday, July 23rd. Previous post in this series: Patient Doctor Relationship: Empathy

Quarrels happen and escalation of a conflict can even escalate in a aggressive conflict. This can have a price: injury, stress and loss of relationships.

Chimpanzees spent less time engaged in self-directed behavior
after conflicts when consolation occurred than when it did not, and levels of self-directed behavior after consolation were not different from baseline levels. Furthermore, levels of selfdirected behavior were higher before consolation than after consolation. These results imply that consolation had a stress-alleviating
effect. Longterm high stress levels may have negative consequences that may thus be mitigated by consolation.

Consolation seems to be an alternative when reconciliation is not possible or ill-advised. The purpose being the alleviation of stress. In this study with chimpanzees consolation was more likely to occur in the absence of reconciliation.

They also showed that the recipients of aggression were more likely to be consoled by
individuals with whom they had a more valuable relationship.

So besides altruistic behavior our closest evolutionary ancestors also could potentially have an empathetic side.

Here you can read the abstract of this research: Stress reduction through consolation in chimpanzees

On News Update you can read the opinion of one of the world’s leading primatologists, Professor Frans de Waal, of Emory University in Atlanta, USA, about this research.

Concepts such as consolation, empathy and sympathy are very interesting. They are an important aspect of the doctor patient relationship. Will soon post some more about these interesting aspects.

The trunk monkey in this video goes way beyond consolation, have a look.
Fraser, O.N., Stahl, D., Aureli, F. (2008). Stress reduction through consolation in chimpanzees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(25), 8557-8562. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0804141105