do animals have feelings and emotions comparable to ours?

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[EN VIDÉO] Animal intelligence: the elephant would pay attention to its body
An Asian elephant has excellently passed an intelligence test that a two-year-old child fails: you can not pull a blanket if you are on it. Made by the association Think Elephants International shows that the elephant is aware of its own body, which the mirror test also shows. A rare ability in the animal world.

Did you know that an emotion is not the same as an emotion? That’s what the researchers are telling us. Joy, sadness, anger, fear, these are emotions. Instantaneous, brief and irrational physiological responses to a situation. In our brain, everything happens at the level of the amygdala. It is the small element stored in our brain limbic – the oldest part of our brain, the seat of our emotions – which commands the release ofhormone in response to a stimulus. Then it is our body that puts itself in place movement. Faced with a spider, for example, he recoils or he cries.

Emotions are unique to each of us. They are built on the basis of our mental representations. They can last over time. And above all, they respond to a complex process that takes place in cortex. That fabric gray. This area of ​​the brain where functions such as memory, reasoning, language or consciousness are played out. It is therefore at this level that angerwhich in truth is a feeling, if repressed, can turn into hatred, which is a feeling.

But are animals then able to experience emotions? It is here much debated issue within the scientific community. It must be said that for more than forty years, researchers first discussed the issue of emotions. Today, ethologists point out that emotions have three components. First, it has a physiological component that determines how the body responds to a stimulus. Then there is the behavioral component that allows you to express your feelings. Finally, there is still a cognitive component that leads to a particular choice. It is against this background that researchers show that many animal species experience emotions. Physiological measurements – such as heart rate – or behavioral observations – ear position or tail position – can tell scientists about this. For example, there is evidence that elephants feel sadness when faced with the loss of one of them. Dogs feel joy when their human comes home after a day of work.

Awareness of oneself and others at the heart of the problem

When it comes to emotions, things get complicated. Because they are by definition a bit the subjective interpretation of emotions. They arise from the fact that we are able to identify the causes and effects of emotions. For researchers who study humans, there is an opportunity to ask questions – however, with the risk of only getting socially acceptable or simply erroneous answers, because it is not always obvious to recognize one’s own feelings correctly. But the animals themselves are not able to react.

And if the secret of the emotions ultimately lay first in the ability to take self-awareness? Maybe a little more in the ability to take someone else’s point of view? This is the hypothesis supported by certain ethologists. But there are animals that are now known to pay attention to their own body. Also known for copying and interpreting the feelings of others, sharing their desires and even understanding what others think. Yes yes, you read that right. The experiment was performed d big monkeys, our close cousins, of course, but that was crucial. They have proven able to understand themselves false beliefs. A man looking for an object, the last place he saw it. Even though the monkeys saw the movement of that object.

To find out if and how animals subjectively interpret their emotions into emotions, researchers still need to conduct further research. Multi-method studies that can combine behavioral and cognitive observations, and neurophysiological and hormonal data, for example. Meanwhile, ethologists suggest that animals are actually endowed with emotions until proven otherwise. If nothing else to better meet their needs. A suggestion … not so stupid!

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