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Animal Emotions
Animal Emotions

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Do animals feel joy, love, fear, anguish or despair? What ere emotions, and perhaps more importantly, how do scientists prove animals are capable of emotion? Sea lion mothers have often been seen wailing painfully and squealing eerily as they watch their babies being eaten by killer whales. Buffaloes have also been observed sliding playfully across ice, excitedly screaming “Gwaaa.” Emotions are defined broadly as psychological phenomena that help in behavioral management and control. This is a challenging question to researchers who are trying to determine the answer to this question. Through current research by close observation combined with neurobiological research, evidence that animals exhibit fear, joy happiness, shame, embarrassment, resentment, jealousy, rage, anger, love, pleasure, compassion, respect, relief, disgust, sadness, despair, and grief is likely. Charles Darwin said, “The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.” I agree with Darwin. I believe animals do exhibit emotions, and denying that animals have emotions because the subject cannot be studied directly is not a reasonable explanation. One recent headline in the news showed an extraordinary event on film. When a three-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure at the zoo, and was knocked unconscious. A female Gorilla named Binti Jua picked up the boy, and cradled him in her arms as if he was her own. The gorilla then gently carried the boy over to the caretaker’s door and set him down. Did the gorilla feel empathy for the boy? By watching the film alone the gorilla seemed to show emotions for the boy, but without studying the animal neurobiologically scientists cannot understand how her emotions and cognitions were linked. One scientist, Damasio, provided an explanation how emotions can be felt in humans biologically. Damasio suggested, “Various brain structures map both the organism and external objects to create what he calls a second order representation. This mapping of the organism and the object most likely occurs in the thalamus and cingulate cortices. A sense of self in the act of knowing is created, and the individual knows “to whom this is happening.” The “seer” and the “seen,” the “thought” and the “thinker” are one in the same.” By mapping the brain scientists can have a better understanding of animal behavior through neurological analysis. When combined with observational data scientists are closer to understanding animals. However many skeptics argue that this is not enough evidence to determine whether animals have emotions or if they are just exhibiting primary instincts. Nevertheless many researchers studying animal emotions believe that humans are not the only animals to experience emotion. In 1988 at the University of Zurich, Eduard Stammbach set up an experiment with long tailed macaque monkeys to determine if they were able to rein aggressive behavior and act cooperatively. Subgroups of monkeys were created, and the lowest ranking monkey was taught to press a set of levers in a specific sequence that caused a machine to deliver popcorn. The high-ranking monkeys noticed the low ranking monkeys’ unique skills. The high-ranking monkeys soon began grabbing all the popcorn. Before long the low ranking monkeys stopped operating the machine. This did not last long because the higher-ranking monkeys began to change their behavior. The higher-ranking monkeys began to approach the lower ranking monkeys more peacefully, and allowed the lower ranking monkeys a share of the popcorn. Furthermore some higher-ranking monkeys began to groom the lower monkeys even when the machine was inoperative. Another experiment by psychologist Robert Miller and his colleagues was designed to see if a monkey was able to interpret another monkey’s facial expression. The researchers trained rhesus monkeys to pull a lever to avoid getting shocked after a specific sound was played. Next a monkey was placed in a room with a lever and a live television image of another monkey without a lever. The second monkey was exposed to the sound that indicated the shock, but had no lever to prevent it. Both animals were out of sight and earshot of one another. The animals were exposed to the sound and shock randomly and at different times. The results showed that the monkey with the lever pulled it more often when the receiver heard the sound. Miller concluded that the monkey with the lever was able to read the other monkey’s facial expressions. This suggested that animals behave cooperatively. Did the monkey with the lever feel empathy for the other monkey? Was it able to feel what it would be like to be the other monkey, and feel its pain, joy, fear or suffering? In another experiment with monkeys, Jules Masserman trained a rhesus monkey to pull one of two chains to receive food after a brief flash of a blue or red light. One light presented the monkey with food while another light presented the monkey with food and a severe shock to another monkey. Most monkeys pulled the chain that delivered both the food and the shock far less often than the one that provided only food. Two of the fifteen monkeys even stopped pulling both chains for five to twelve days. It seemed as if the monkeys stopped eating to avoid injury to another. Perhaps the monkeys felt sorry for their unfortunate companions. What about just observing animals in the wild? It is very difficult to deny that animals enjoy themselves when playing. When dogs interact with each other they wag their tails and jump in the air whining and hollering. When elephants reunite they celebrate, flapping their ears and spin about while at the same time vocalize what is known as a greeting rumble. Animals partake in play that they seem to enjoy greatly, and there seems to be no other goal than to play. Studies in the field of chemistry have shown that play is enjoyable. Studies have shown that the level of dopamine increases in rats when anticipating the chance to play. Also reptiles such as iguanas exhibit sensory pleasure. Studies found that iguanas would prefer to stay warm then to look for food out in the cold. What the iguanas are experiencing is known as “emotional fever,” which is a psychological response that is associated with pleasure in other vertebrates including humans. Animals also exhibit grief in the absence or loss of a loved one. Jane Goodall once observed Flint, an eight-year-old chimpanzee, withdraw, stop feeding and eventually die after the death of his mother. Konrad Lorenz noted that geese exhibited grief similar to that in young children. He said “A greylag goose that has lost its partner shows all the symptoms that John Bowlby has described in young human children in his famous book Infant Grief. . . the eyes sink deep into their sockets, and the individual has an overall drooping experience, literally letting their head hang.” Elephants stand guard over a stillborn baby for days with their head and their ears hanging down like they were sad. The experiments and other data show that animals are not just driven by instincts alone. There is more to them than that. It is hard to watch dogs play and believe that they derive no fun or pleasure from it at all. Animals have shown that they are sensitive to their social surroundings. They punish one another and alleviate other’s pain. Some monkeys in established communities attack those that find food and don’t share. These studies are important. A better understanding of how animals are feeling could create a whole new guideline of rules on the way animals should be treated. Humans should not be so arrogant to believe they are the only animals capable of emotion. How are we capable of seeing from their viewpoint and assume they feel no emotion.

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