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Why do we wince when others are in pain? © Shutterstock

Why do we wince when others are in pain?

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Ouch! When others get hurt it is difficult to suppress a sympathetic flinch.

Asked by: Tim Maddox, Peterborough


Wincing is a form of communication. Rats, rabbits, sheep, horses and pigs all have their own wince expression when they are in pain. This lets other members of their family or herd know that something nearby is dangerous.

Wincing when you see someone else in pain is part of the human ability to empathise. We are social animals, and imagining how those around us might be feeling is part of the emotional ‘glue’ that keeps us together.


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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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