Animal Emotions Essay

1342 words - 5 pages

Animal Emotions

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...

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