Al Hochrein photograph
Space in these short articles does not allow me to give examples of the following human-like emotions and thoughts displayed in animals. But let me assure readers that I’ve researched this topic thoroughly and examined numerous sources that document what I’m going to share. For readers who are interested seeing examples of animal displaying these characteristics, there are three books in particular that I can recommend. Two of them are by one of the world’s leading authorities on animal behavior, Marc Bekoff: Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues and The Emotional Lives of Animals. For current studies on dogs—probably the most frequently studied domesticated animal in behavioral research (other than experiments on rodents)—read Inside of a Dog; What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by psychologist and animal behaviorist, Alexandra Horowitz.
Prior to the 19th century, most scientists assumed that nature was a vast organic machine operating according to immutable natural laws. Animals were regarded as little more than biological machines. Rene Descartes and other 17th century philosophers and scientists even believed that animals do not feel pain. This resulted in the cruel practice of vivisection, where experiments and surgery were performed on live animals without anesthesia.
Today, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever believing that animals don’t feel pain or experience other emotions. During the last century, an enormous amount of data has been accumulated on animal behavior. It’s widely recognized today that animals not only feel pain and retain memories of it, but they also engage in thought-driven behaviors and experience real emotions. As Professor Bekoff put it:
So it turns out that what many pet owners intuitively knew all along is true—animals can have real emotions, and their behaviors are often deliberate, flexible, and not motivated by just instinct. Below I’ll point out some of the most obvious and well-attested emotions displayed in many animals, and next week we’ll look at some of the cognitive (thought-driven) behaviors observed in many species of animals. In both cases, you will see that many of these mental attributes parallel similar thoughts and emotions in humans.
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