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

Why do we wince when others are in pain?

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.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.