Animals (mammals specifically) do seem to have emotions. The Animal Planet article linked below uses dogs as a example, stating that dogs are skilled at reading human emotions and expressing their own. In addition, the article states “there are four dimensions of canine personality: sociability, affection, emotional stability and competence, a word used to represent obedience and intelligence combined.”
The second link below discusses how animal emotions may assist animals in making choices. For example, in a place with many predators an animal may experience anxiety, making it want to leave.
It is becoming widely believed that social animals, at least, do experience human-like emotions. Studies have shown that dogs and monkeys are capable of feeling jealousy and have an understanding of fairness. In one case, dogs became uncooperative when they saw other dogs being given food for performing the same trick while they received nothing. They did not, however, make any distinctions based on the ‘tastiness’ of the reward. A similar experiment with chimps produced strong results, with the chimps being able to react to the quality of the reward.
Grief too is widely observed in many species. Cases of elephants exhibiting behavior recognizable as grief at the death of another elephant or offspring; cases of dogs waiting for their owners long after the owner’s death; magpies laying grass alongside a deceased individual. Proving these behaviors may be difficult, but it seems quite obvious and recognizable that many species can experience “higher” emotions.
Cats…hmmm. still up in the air on that one
Humans…….not much anymore.
To start with, we need to specifically define what emotions actually are. After researching it is actually quite a fuzzy field. There are many different theories about how the brain works and what an emotion actually is. Most scientists and doctors agree that it is an altered state of mind usually observable and either has a negative or positive outcome. When you think of a dog, it wags its tale when happy and cowers when scared. A cat will either scrath you or purr. A fish will become stressed and die quite easily as do some lizards including the leopard gecko. If the fish/lizards are stressed, they must also be said to have states of contentment, also an emotion.
Dolphins, who are second only to humans in intelligence, are capable of sophisticated emotion because the part of the dolphin brain associated with processing emotional information is expanded. Dolphins have been shown to be vulnerable to trauma, suffering, and panic when in captivity or other stressful situations.
I agree with Shatkin in that “emotion” is not an easily defined concept. When deliberating on animals’ experiences of emotions, it’s important yet difficult to distinguish between emotion and instinctual reactions. “Emotion” traditionally connotes a conscious experience, and while animals certainly demonstrate expressions of fear, pain, and hunger, it is difficult to tell how much cognitive activity is behind these evident “emotions”.
In the case that Ajmosko presents, with dogs becoming “jealous” over treats, Marian Dawkins makes a compelling argument in her article linked below (abstract) that animals have developed “anticipatory mechanisms” with an effectiveness that does not necessitate a conscious experience. She cautions that choice tests evaluating animal preferences and behaviors that, “involv[e] physical obstacles to allow animals to get what they ‘want’ could be nothing more than the operation of animals being evolved by natural selection to respond to certain sorts of stimuli and to keep on responding even when there are obstacles.”
However, Dawkins does say that learned behaviors (which have nothing to do with natural selection) amongst animals in a “reward-punishment” setting demonstrate that animals do in fact rely upon emotions to learn. Rats in a lab setting, for instance, will continue to push a button that deposits food in their cage because they feel “pleasure” from eating. They will cease to push the other button that zaps them with an electrical shock because it causes them “suffering”.
To answer from a personal point of view, yes, animals do have emotions. I adoped three husky’s over the course of six years, and although they had not known each other their whole lives, they formed a pack. About a year ago, the second oldest, Simba, passed away. It was clear that the other two were hurting. They both stopped eating for a few days and just sulked around the house. I don’t know if they knew that Simba died, but they knew their pack-mate was gone. Two months later the oldest, Tasha, died. Koda was the only one left, and once again you could just see the pain in his eyes. He didn’t even want to go to the dog park for the few weeks after Tasha passed away.
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