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Maciamo
16-12-09, 19:55
I heard someone on TV say that empathy is what differentiate us, humans, from animals. It didn't seem right. I knew that apes could feel empathy. Dogs too can understand your feelings, know when you feel down, and maybe even try to help you when you are in trouble. So empathy is obviously not a human only emotion. I don't know if cats or mice can really feel empathy. If they can it is certainly a less strong or developed feeling than dogs, dolphins, elephants or primates. Empathy is a feeling shared by higher mammals. Interestingly, autistic people cannot empathise (much) with others.

This made me wonder what emotions and feelings were really felt exclusively by humans, and what was the gradation of emotions through evolution.

Fear is probably the most basic of all emotions, the one most necessary for an animal's survival. The tiniest insect and the stupidest fish will experience fear. Only brainless species of animals, like molluscs or jellyfish do not know fear.

Anger could be seen as a natural reaction to provocation or aggressive behaviour. It is closely linked to fear. They are in fact the two facets of the fight-or-flight response. It can be felt by every animal species who can sense fear.

Joy, which we often think of as another basic emotion, is in fact much more advanced. Cats do not express joy with facial expression, but only via their behaviour and by purring. Dogs can show joy on their face though. All mammals can probably feel some kind of joyful feeling or excitement. So do birds, some of which can communicate it well by singing. Reptiles seem to be the evolutionary limit where joy ceases to exist. In other words, anything more primitive than mammals or birds (both descended from the reptiles) cannot feel joy.

Although it is the opposite of joy, sadness appears a bit more evolved. I am not sure cats can feel sad, for instance. Dogs certainly do. Most animals can feel distressed (closer to fear) or miserable (e.g. if deprived from freedom in a cage). But that isn't the same as sadness. Higher mammals, once again, tend to express more grief at the loss of a child. Insects, fish or even reptiles wouldn't feel anything at all, and have been known to eat their offspring. Birds and mammals are more protective of their family and will be emotionally upset at the loss of a close one. Some species of birds have been known to feel grief at the loss of their life partner, and even die soon after, as can also be the case with humans, or with a dog losing his/her master. It is difficult to assess the evolutionary limit of sadness because it is not always expressed on one's face, even in humans. I would say that most mammals and birds can experience it at varying degrees depending on their brain size.

Trust is another emotion that can bind us with our canine friends. In fact just about any mammal can become a companion once you have gained their trust. Trust is harder with birds, and even more with reptiles, but not impossible. Alligators can develop a sense of mutual trust with humans who feed them, so that they won't attack them and will let themselves be approached, touched and even handled. Or maybe is it just acceptance. Trust requires memory, which is why small-brained reptiles and fish won't develop any long-lasting trusting relationship, even between themselves.

Contempt is an emotion hard to perceive in animals. It is sometimes said that cats can feel contempt, but that is probably just content and serenity. Contempt leads to rejection and segregation. It requires an understanding of one's own capabilities in relation to others. It is surely one of the most "evolved" emotions, one that only primates and a few other social mammals (dolphins, wolves) can really feel. Even among primates, it may be limited to apes or bigger-brained monkeys. Contempt is also linked to social hierarchy and exclusion. Apes, wolves and dolphins all have a developed social hierarchy, and can punish, seclude or exclude members from the group, just like humans.

Disapproval is a bit similar to contempt, in the sense that it can lead to the punishment of a group member. It requires deeper thinking, memory and learning. It is based on judgement from past experiences. I would say that it is even more complex than contempt, because it needs a way of expressing it in an accurate enough way to express one's mind. It requires language, so it is limited to humans, and possibly apes (sign language) and cetaceans (if dolphins and whales can communicate ideas efficiently with their language, but we have no idea).

Love is common among mammals and birds, but cannot really be said to exist in other animals. It requires a sufficient level of memory (at least to remember one's mate) and trust. Naturally, love is felt more strongly and in a more complex way in more intelligent animals.

Hate is more complex, because it does not rely so much on biochemistry. Hate, and its milder version 'disgust', arises from the memory of strong negative experience towards another individual or group or species. It is felt more strongly in species (or individuals) who are more emotionally sensitive and have a strong emotional memory. Camels are said never to forget (nor forgive) someone who hurt them. Dogs can be trained to become vicious by instilling them negative feelings. Cats, though, will remember to fear someone or something, but not 'hate' it. Hate and disgust are restricted to some higher mammals, and strongest of all in chimpanzees and humans (the only two species that wage wars against their own kind).

Boredom is another emotion that seem to distinguish cats from dogs. Felines never seem to be bored, while dogs often do if they stay many hours alone or without stimulus. Boredom is certainly felt more strongly in species that evolved a certain neoteny (retention of juvenile character in adults), and therefore playfulness, like dogs (but not wolves) and primates (especially humans).

Loneliness is a sort of feeling of boredom mixed with insecurity or sense of exclusion. It is limited to social mammals.

Sentimentality is another feeling that seems linked to neoteny. Even in human children are usually more sentimental than adults. Dogs are among the rare animals that never behave like adults because we selected them to behave this way. That's why a dog will be sentimental about his/her toys or blanket and carry it around all the time or cry if he/she doesn't have it, just a like a human child. The same is true with young chimps, but much less with adults.

Shame can only be felt by social mammals that can feel disapproval, contempt or rejection from other group members. Solitary animals, like cats, have no sense of shame, because they do not have social rules. All primates and dogs can experience shame, and possibly elephants and some other big social mammals.

Disappointment is a kind of sadness resulting from a failed anticipation (negative surprise). It requires the ability to foresee predictable events or understand the principle of rewards. Again it is something that cats cannot really feel, but that dogs can. If you show some food to a dog, make him/her feel like you are going to give it to him/her, then eat it yourself, the dog will be disappointed, and maybe sigh or sulk. A cat won't understand and will keep meowing or just look surprised or annoyed. Apes can feel disappointment with a disarming poignancy. But can a horse, a cow, a camel or a sheep really be as disappointed as a dog or a chimp ? I have never seen any (or maybe horses, but in a more subtle manner).

Guilt/remorse is possibly the only common emotion that is exclusive to the great apes and humans. It required deep thinking and the faculty to imagine how things could have been if we had acted differently, and envisage the future consequences of one's acts, while understanding that we had the power to do things differently if we had been more thoughtful or careful.

Pride and humiliation are two emotions that go hand in hand. They require a sense of self, but also a social status within the group. It is therefore only something that intelligent social animals can feel. It is pretty much limited to great apes and humans though. Other animals do not have to rely enough on their learned skills to socialise.

Maciamo
16-12-09, 21:17
Here is a little summary :

Primitive emotions (from crustaceans, insects and fish)

Fear
Anger/annoyance

Secondary emotions (birds and mammals)

Joy
Sadness
Love
Trust

Tertiary emotions (higher mammals only)

Hate/disgust
Pity

Complex social emotions (intelligent/neotenised social mammals only)

Boredom
Loneliness
Shame
Contempt
Disapproval
Disappointment
Sentimentality

Apes and human only emotions

Guilt/remorse
Pride
Humiliation

Human only emotions

?

LeBrok
17-12-09, 05:35
In nutshell, this is my understanding of emotions:

Generally there are two main groups of emotions. The pleasurable emotions, contempt or any good feeling. Usually tells one what it should want and do.
Second group is pain, or any discomfort feeling. Usually tells one what to avoid, what's bad.

The emotions are closely related to what we call instincts. They help us (and animals with nerves systems) make the right choices in life. They have long evolutionary past, and I believe, they stand behind a success of multicellular life form on earth.

The earlier evolutionary instinct or more important for life, the more intense the feeling.
Some basic and strongest are:
Hunger - big pain when starving, big pleasure while eating. When hungry, we are aggressive and can kill to eat, or kill to get food from someone else.
Sex - oh, ah, try to stop me, lol
Pain of body being injured. Bites, cuts, infections, etc.
Breathing- doesn’t give one much pleasure, but try stopping breathing.
Fear/panic – big discomfort paralyzing, or making you run away.
Aggression – not sure about it though, pain, pleasure, both? Maybe a third kind?

The instincts are hardwired in our brain, and every animal with nervous system posses them. The rest is what was recorded in our brains during life time, and everything, every experience, picture, sound, was recorded with emotional context/background. There is no memory in our heads without emotions. Either it’s strong or barely noticeable, or related to food, movie, social scene, or even numbers. It doesn’t matter what the emotion’s nomenclature, we can always say if it feels good or bad. Surely our social settings are every complicated, and we developed many names for our different feelings, but basics are the same, pain and pleasure.

We are social animals and everything that makes group stronger will influence us with strong emotions. Socializing in group feels very good, loneliness feels bad. Protecting group feels good, seeing your group being attacked (even on forums) feels bad. Killing one of yours feels bad (guilt, remorse), killing ones that hurt your group feels good (glory, pride, heroism).
From these social group settings that we evolved from, we carry a big luggage of emotions that are handicapping us in building one big happy global village. Whoever is different from group norm we can easily label a freak. If it comes to disabilities, these members of group (in past) didn’t had much chance of procreating or bringing food and it was more beneficial for group to get rid of them than care and use scarce resources on them. Ridiculing, disgust, hate, anger, comes to mind. It doesn’t stop here, any deviation from norm is a go, colour of skin, accent, etc. Even telling jocks and ridiculing other group is fun and pleasure. Nobody wants to be different, it feels bad. We all want to be accepted, be equal, to belong, that feels good.
The fact that we have come from a long line of greatest warriors doesn’t help us much either in building a peaceful world. If there were peaceful tribes in past, they were killed off by our ancestors.
It’s so unnatural and painful for young guys to stay in school behind desks for hours every day. But let them out, and they run, hide, play, shoot, wrestle, they find stick, and stick turns into spear or sward, and how come the rocks are so great to throw? Natural hunters and warriors. Ok, these days they don’t run much, but what they do at home with Xboxes? Being a warrior gives boys pleasure.

Biggest team sports are based on war. Two teams from different towns/groups/courtiers going at each other. That’s why soccer is the most successful! Big pleasure on many levels.

Women and shopping - gathering instinct combined with biggest/rich fields/shops on planet. Oh, what a pleasure…

Psychopaths – faulty wiring in brain giving pleasure in torturing others. Maybe in past it gave some edge to fearless warriors (scaring other tribes through bestiality into submission?), but it is not a welcome trait in today’s society.

Homosexuality – It generally happens in all spices, but it is more common among humans. It is more likely an easy mutation to occur, but it is an evolutionary dead end. There will be a plethora of discovered mutation giving rise to homosexuality, but the fact is that all of them will lead to one liking, feeling aroused and pleasure towards same sex. All research that I read shows that it is hard wired before a birth.
But why is it so common?
Pain through social pressure explains it though. Through most of history we lived in small groups or villages. Whoever was brave to announce around his/her homosexuality, in those settings, shortened his/her life span to hours. Especially small groups don’t like “freaks”. Pain through fear, family pressure, intimidation, arranged marriages forced homosexuals into procreating, therefore increasing number of homosexual genes in the pool. One can conclude that having open and free society will lead to decrease in number of gays.

Addictions – anything that gives pleasure can be addictive



I’m not judging any of the mentioned examples, it is what it is. I’m just describing correlations between pain/pleasure and human behavior, the cause and effect. The understanding of two basic emotions gives me explanation of all human behaviors.

Not sure if there are any pure human emotions not found in rest of animal kingdom, probably not. Do we feel them a bit differently? I believe so.
For me there are only two basic ones, pain and pleasure, the rest are derivatives of these, connected with physiological and social functions. Most are hardwired, few if any learned.

Maciamo
17-12-09, 13:54
In nutshell, this is my understanding of emotions:
Generally there are two main groups of emotions. The pleasurable emotions, contempt or any good feeling.

I suppose that you meant "content", not "contempt".

I agree with your analysis, except on a few points.



Through most of history we lived in small groups or villages. Whoever was brave to announce around his/her homosexuality, in those settings, shortened his/her life span to hours. Especially small groups don’t like “freaks”.

I think that small tribal group are usually far more tolerant than large modern societies. The reason is that in a small tribe everybody knows each other since birth. Everybody is like family and, unlike in modern society, you have nobody else to socialise with if you don't like them. Not liking them is not even an option. The group of hunter-gatherers fights together for its survival. Homosexuality was probably not a big problem. Well at least bisexuality.

Ancient civilisations were much more tolerant than us now about homosexuality. The Greeks even encouraged it. Young Spartan men were obliged to have an older male tutor and have sexual rapport with them. This is unimaginable nowadays, and I think it has a lot to do with Judeo-Christian taboos. Go to India and you will see heterosexual male friends walk hand in hand. This would be totally unacceptable in Western society (except maybe for children).

But anyway, homosexuality is not an emotion.


For me there are only two basic ones, pain and pleasure, the rest are derivatives of these, connected with physiological and social functions. Most are hardwired, few if any learned.

How would you categorise sentimentality and love ? Sentimentality can be both positive and negative. Love is normally pleasurable but can be very painful too.

How about empathy, sympathy, pity and compassion ? They are all good things, but you basically try to feel the pain of another individual, so it is painful yet positive.

Even fear, which is usually listed as a negative/painful emotion, can be pleasurable for some people (roller-coaster ride, horror movies).

LeBrok
18-12-09, 11:08
I suppose that you meant "content", not "contempt".
Good guess, thanks



I agree with your analysis, except on a few points.



I think that small tribal group are usually far more tolerant than large modern societies. The reason is that in a small tribe everybody knows each other since birth. Everybody is like family and, unlike in modern society, you have nobody else to socialise with if you don't like them. Not liking them is not even an option. The group of hunter-gatherers fights together for its survival. Homosexuality was probably not a big problem. Well at least bisexuality.

Ancient civilisations were much more tolerant than us now about homosexuality. The Greeks even encouraged it. Young Spartan men were obliged to have an older male tutor and have sexual rapport with them. This is unimaginable nowadays, and I think it has a lot to do with Judeo-Christian taboos. Go to India and you will see heterosexual male friends walk hand in hand. This would be totally unacceptable in Western society (except maybe for children).


Not exactly, though there are some exceptions. Generally speaking big centers are always more tolerant than villages. New York and LA are much more tolerant and open than small USA towns. Berlin till 1935 was way more liberal than rest of Germany. Same in India, big cities verses strongly traditional villages. Though one learning about India through Kamasutra would invasion all India being a sex heaven, lol. Go to village in India, and all the marriages are arraigned. Marriage by love, blasphemy. If one declares homosexuality, parents would "deny" it and still marry him/her. If it is a strong case, won't get inheritance. And in poor country it always meant, poverty, sickness and death. That's a hell of a pressure to marry.
Keep in mind that in past 90% of folks lived in villages versus cities. Small groups/villages were a very strong evolutionary force.


But anyway, homosexuality is not an emotion.
Yes, but it's based on very strong emotions, lust/love towards same sex. It must feel damn good, otherwise why would they do that?




How would you categorise sentimentality and love ? Sentimentality can be both positive and negative. Love is normally pleasurable but can be very painful too.

Even fear, which is usually listed as a negative/painful emotion, can be pleasurable for some people (roller-coaster ride, horror movies).


I think we have to get away with the notion that pain is bad or negative. Pleasure and pain is good, because both are in you to save your life, and lead you to right choices. Flame can burn your skin, it feels bad, but the pain saved you from burning yourself completely. Pain shows you what to avoid or get away from.
Obviously there are some trappings of pain without escape. Like psychological pain from big loss, let's say death of someone close, that can drive person to suicide. But if we could return this person to life, this pain would be productive.

Love could be painful, yes but it drives person towards solution, how to get close to the one that person loves. Or should I say it drives person away from the separation, which is painful.
The more we analyze the plethora of human feelings the more complicated it gets. We don't have name for all the verities of emotions we can feel. They mix and blend together, they more like spectrum than strict definitions, we can feel few together with pain and pleasure at same time. It gets really confusing for human mind as our logic operates better when compartmentalizing and putting things in order. Life hates order and always experiments with new ways, lol, always throws us a curve ball. On top of it, many our feeling/instincts were developed for benefits of small groups of hunters-gatherers, and are harder to understand in today’s modern hi-tech civilization.




How about empathy, sympathy, pity and compassion ? They are all good things, but you basically try to feel the pain of another individual, so it is painful yet positive.
That's a social aspect of emotions. These emotions make us help others from our group, therefore make group stronger. These are very positive emotions, though painful. Also accomplishing task of helping and seeing positive results one feels reward/pleasure of satisfaction.

This huge impotents of social aspect of being human made me thinking that there is no universal or supernatural good and bad, or right and wrong. Basically all that benefits our group and makes it strong we call good, all that makes our group weak we call bad, immoral and sinful. But that's not relevant here and could be a good discussion for other time.

Cheers