Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture

Emotions Conference 2016 (11 of 20) | Frans de Waal | Animal Emotions and Empathy

Episode Summary

Emotions Conference 2016 (11 of 20) | Frans de Waal | Animal Emotions and Empathy

Episode Notes

Emotions suffuse much of the language employed by students of animal behavior --from "social bonding" to "alarm calls" -- yet are often avoided as explicit topic in scientific discourse. Given the increasing interest of human psychology in the emotions, and the neuroscience on animal emotions such as fear and attachment, the taboo that has hampered animal research in this area is outdated. We need to recall the history of our field in which emotions and instincts were mentioned in the same breath and in which neither psychologists nor biologists felt that animal emotions were off limits. The main point is to separate emotions from feelings, which are subjective experiences that accompany the emotions. Whereas science has no access to animal feelings, animal emotions are as observable and measurable as human emotions. They are mental and bodily states that potentiate behavior appropriate to both social and nonsocial situations. The expression of emotions in face and body language is well known, the study of which began with Darwin. I will discuss early ideas about animal emotions and draw upon research on empathy and the perception of emotions in primates to make the point that the study of animal emotions is a necessary complement to the study of behavior. Emotions are best viewed as the initiators and organizers of adaptive responses to environmental stimuli. (February 12, 2016)