Do animals have emotions and feelings comparable to ours?

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[EN VIDÉO] Animal intelligence: An elephant would know about its body
The Asian elephant passed the intelligence test that a two-year-old doesn’t pass: you can’t pull a carpet if you’re on it. An experiment conducted by Think Elephants International shows that the elephant is aware of its own body, which was also shown by the mirror test. A rare ability in the animal kingdom.

Did you know that emotion is not the same as feeling? That’s what the scientists tell us. Joy, sadness, anger, fear, emotions. Instantaneous, brief and irrational physiological reactions to the situation. In our braineverything happens at the level of the amygdala. It’s that little element hidden in our brain limbic — the oldest part of our brain, the seat of our emotions — which commands the releasehormone in response to a stimulus. Then it’s our body that puts itself in motion. For example, when meeting a spider, it recoils or cries.

Feelings are unique to each of us. They are built on the basis of our mental representations. They can last over time. And they correspond, first of all, to the complex process taking place in bark. That to matter Gray. This is the area of ​​the brain where functions such as memory, thought, language, or consciousness are played out. Therefore, at this level angerwhich is really an emotion, if repressed, can turn into hatred, which is a feeling.

But then, are animals capable of experiencing feelings? It’s here big controversial issue within the scientific community. It must be said that for more than forty years, researchers were arguing for the first time on the issue of emotions. Today, ethologists note that emotions consist of three components. First, it has a physiological component that determines the body’s response to a stimulus. Then there is the behavioral component, which allows you to express your emotions. Finally, there remains a cognitive component that leads to a certain choice. It is on this basis that researchers show that many animal species experience emotions. Physiological measurements – such as heart rate – or behavioral observations – the position of the ears or the posture of the tail – can tell scientists this. There is evidence, for example, that elephants experience sadness when faced with the loss of one of their own. Dogs are happy when their owner comes home after a day’s work.

Awareness of self and others at the heart of the problem

When it comes to feelings, things get complicated. Because, by definition, they are somewhat subjective interpretations of emotions. They arise because we are able to identify the causes and effects of emotions. For human researchers, there is an opportunity to ask questions – all the same, at the risk of getting only socially acceptable or simply erroneous answers, because it is not always obvious to correctly recognize even one’s own feelings. But the animals themselves are not able to answer.

And if the secret of feeling, after all, lay primarily in the ability to perceive self-awareness? Maybe a little more in the ability to accept someone else’s point of view? This hypothesis is supported by some ethologists. But there are animals that are now known to be aware of their own bodies. He is also known to copy and interpret the emotions of others, share their desires, and even understand what others believe. Yes, yes, you read it right. The experiment was carried out on great apes, our close relatives, of course, but it was convincing. They have shown themselves capable of understanding even false beliefs. This is a person looking for an object in the last place where he saw it. Even though the monkeys witnessed the movement of the object in question.

To find out whether animals interpret their emotions into feelings, and if so, in what way, researchers have yet to do further research. For example, multimethod studies that may combine behavioral and cognitive observations, as well as neurophysiological and hormonal data. In the meantime, ethologists propose to assume that animals are indeed endowed with feelings, until proven otherwise. At least in order to better meet their needs. Suggestion… not so stupid!

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