August 12, 2020

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Animal Emotions and What
They Tell Us about Ourselves

by Frans de Waal
W. W. Norton, 2019 (326 pages)

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Quote by author = "Animals feel, just like humans!" Book theme paraphrased summary by Frans de Waal, (page 274)

Quote by author = "We behavioral scientists urgently need to get involved, not only because we are users of animals, which would be reason enough. But also because we are at the forefront of the changing perceptions of animal intelligence and emotions. Since we are pushing for a new appreciation of animals, we had better help implement the needed changes." (page 274)

Quote by author = "We have instruments by which to know specifically which conditions are beneficial or harmful for animals. We can offer animals a choice of different environments to see which ones they prefer. Will chickens seek out a hard surface or dirt? Do pigs really like mud? Animal well-being is measurable, and its study is becoming a science in and of itself. Of course, this would never have happened if we were still convinced that animals feel nothing!" (page 274)

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note = Emotions distinguished from feelings (4)

note = Emotions give meaning to our lives: they are the most salient things about our lives; they are everything! (9-10)

1) MAMA’S LAST HUG — An ape matriarch’s farewell (13-46)

[1]Recognizing ourselves (14-21)

[2] Mama’s central role (21-30)

[3] Alpha female (30-38)

[4] Finality and grief (39-46)

note = "All emotions are mixed with knowledge." (46)

note = Grief is not simply an emotion; it is a far more complicated process. (146)

note = "Grief is the sad flip side of social bonding: loss!" (146)

2) WINDOW TO THE SOUL — When primates laugh and smile (47-77)

[1] Express yourself (51-60)

[2] from ear to ear (60-68)

[3] That was funny! (68-76)

[4] Blended emotions (76-77)

3) BODY TO BODY — Empathy and sympathy (79-120)

[1] Wisdom of ages (82-89)

[2] Monkey see, monkey do (89-96)

[3] Kissing the sore spot (97-103)

[4] The good and the bad (103-110)

[5] Rat sympathy (110-120)

4) EMOTIONS THAT MAKE US HUMAN — Disgust, shame, guilt, and other discomforts (121-170)

[1] A thirsty horse (123-129)

[2] An eye for an eye (129-140)

note = How conflict resolution by bartering is second nature to apes including humans (137)

note = "Timeline emotions that transgress the present can no longer be denied, given the mounting evidence that animals hold memories of specific events, are forward-looking, exchange favors, and engage in an eye-for-an-eye." (139-140)

[3] Pride and prejudice (140-144)

note = Use research of Maslow about self-esteem (143-144)

[4] Guilty as a dog (145-155)

[5] The yuck! Factor (155-165)

[6] Emotions are like organs (165-170)

5: WILL TO POWER — Politics, murder, warfare (171-202)

[1] Like an alpha male (172-176)

[2] Political tantrums (176-181)

[3] Murder (181-189)

[4] Drums of war (189-197)

[5] Female power (197-202)

6: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE — On fairness and free will (203-237)

[1] Celebrating the cerebral (204-207)

[2] Cucumber and grape monkeys (207-215)

[3] The ultimatum game (215-221)

[4] Free will and b.s. (221-231)

note = "Animals just cannot afford to blindly run after their impulses. Their emotional reactions always go through an appraisal of the situation and judgment of the available options. This is why they all have self-control. Furthermore, in order to avoid punishment and conflict, the members of a group need to adjust their desires, or at least their behavior, to the will of those around them. Compromise is the name of the game. Given the long history of social life on earth, these adjustments are deeply ingrained and apply equally to humans and other social animals. So even though personally I am not a big believer in free will, we do need to pay close attention to the way cognition may override inner urges. Fighting the impulse to take one course of action and replacing it with another that promises a better outcome is a sign of rational agency." (230-231)

"It is also essential to any well ordered society, which is why the American psychologist Roy Baumeister remarked, 'Perhaps ironically, free will is necessary to enable people to follow rules.'" [Roy Baumeister in Perspectives on Psychological Science, "Free Will in Scientific Psychology." 3:14-19]. (231)

"I [de Waal] suggest, therefore, that we expand the perennial debate about this issue [Free Will] by asking why it is customarily assumed that free will makes us human. What exactly is it about us that makes us so sure that we have it and other species do not? Why do we think we are the only ones with the freedom to determine our future?" (231)

"Given the above evidence, the reason for the presumed difference cannot be control over our emotions and impulses or even awareness of our own desires. I would love an answer that we can put to the test, because we will never get there with the prejudices that have informed the debate thus far. Until then, my tentative conclusion is that if we humans did evolve free will, it is unlikely that we were the first ones." (231)

[5] Stand by me (231-237)

7: SENTIENCE — What animals feel (239-274)

[1] Meat and sentience (242-249)

[2] Chrysippus’s dog (250-255)

[3] Evolution minus miracles (255-264)

[4] No fish no cry (264-269)

[5] Transparency (269-274)

CONCLUSION (275-278)


NOTES (281-288)


INDEX (305-324)
    Alpha Females
    Alpha Males
    Body language
    Cultural factors
    Darwin, Charles
    Environmental factors
    Facial expression
    Female chimpanzees
    Free will
    (35, 183, 221-231, 234, 270)
    Future orientation
    Genital swelling
    Goodall, Jane
    Great apes
    Greek civilization
    Hair raising
    Humans (13 topics)
    Internal states
    Juvenile chimpanzees
    Laboratory animals
    Lorenz, Konrad
    Male chimpanzees
    Mamma [chimpanzee]
    Marine life
    Marshmallow tests [child impulse control
    Maslow (143-144)
    Meat-eating animals [carnivores]
    Mechanistic approach
    Mind vs. body dichotomy
    Modification of behavior
    Moral values
    Mother-child relations
    Motivation Natural selection
    Natural selection
    Objective perception
    (41-42, 46, 104-105, 106, 267)
    Pain (11 topics)
    Pets (9 topics)
    Philosophy (10 topics)
    Pleasure (9 topics)
    Politics (10 topics)
    Power (7 topics)
    Predators (14 topics)
    Primates (32 topics)
    Psychology ()
    Rewards (7 topics)
    Rivalry (10 topics)
    Self-awareness (10 topics)
    Self-control (5 topics)
    "Selfish genes"
    Sexual bargaining
    Sexual reproduction
    Shame and guilt
    Signals, behavioral
    Social behavior
    Species (6 topics)
    Species classification
    Survival (12 topics)
    Triadic awareness
    Verbal communication
    Victorious behavior
    Wealth distribution
    Wild chimpanzees
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AUTHOR NOTES = Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University's Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Self-description = "I am a Dutch/American biologist, born in the Netherlands in 1948, having lived in the USA since 1981. My passion is primate behavior, and the comparison between primate and human behavior. I pursue the first as a scientist and the second as a writer of popular books. For me, there is nothing more logical than to look at human society through the lens of animal behavior."

"I have a Ph. D. in zoology and ethology (the study of animal behavior) from the University of Utrecht, and now teach Psychology at Emory University, in Atlanta. My first book, "Chimpanzee Politics," compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. The book even reached the reading list of the congress in Washington. Ever since, I have drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from aggression to morality and culture."

"With my wife, Catherine, and our cats, we live in a forested area near Smoke Rise, in Georgia, a state we love. My daily work consists of teaching and research, which I do at America's oldest and largest primate center, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. I direct the Living Links Center there, which specializes in behavioral studies of monkeys and apes, mostly on social behavior and intelligence, so as to better understand human evolution."

''We do much of our work at a field station, outside of Atlanta, where the primates live in large open-air enclosures. All studies we conduct are behavioral and non-invasive. Our website offers videos, press releases, blogs, and so on:"

"Since childhood, I have been an animal lover, and in fact — even though my career has focused on primate behavior — I am very much interested in all sorts of animals, including fish and birds, but also elephants and dolphins. My most recent book on animal intelligence (Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?) reflects this broader interest, as it covers many different species."

"For more on my background, please check out the following website:"

"I maintain a Facebook page, which also announces upcoming lecture events."

SUMMARY = The New York Times best-selling author and primatologist, Frans de Waal, explores the fascinating world of animal and human emotions. He has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research. This book, Mama's Last Hug (2019), provides a fascinating exploration of the rich emotional lives of animals. His previous eleven popular books include the following:
    1 - Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (2016)

    2 - The Bonobo and the Atheist (2013)

    3 - The Age of Empathy (2009)

    4 - Primates and Philosophers (2006)

    5 - Our Inner Ape (2005)

    6 - My Family Album (2003)

    7 - The Ape and the Sushi Master (2001)

    8 - Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (1997)

    9 - Good Natured (1996)

    10 - Peacemaking Among Primates (1989)

    11 - Chimpanzee Politics (1982)
BOOK DESCRIPTION = The book begins with the death of Mama, a chimpanzee matriarch who formed a deep bond with biologist Jan van Hooff. When Mama was dying, van Hooff took the unusual step of visiting her in her night cage for a last hug. Their goodbyes were filmed and went viral. Millions of people were deeply moved by the way Mama embraced the professor, welcoming him with a big smile while reassuring him by patting his neck, in a gesture often considered typically human but that is in fact common to all primates.

Many more stories provide fascinating evidence that forms the core of de Waal’s argument. The book shows that humans are not the only species with the capacity for love, hate, fear, shame, guilt, joy, disgust, and empathy. De Waal discusses facial expressions, the emotions behind human politics, the illusion of free will, animal sentience, and, of course, Mama’s life and death.

The message is one of continuity between us and other species, such as the radical proposal that emotions are like organs: we do not have a single organ that other animals do not have, and the same is true for our emotions. The book can open our hearts and minds to the many ways in which humans and other animals are connected and transform our view of the living world around us.

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LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW = Ethologist and zoologist de Waal (Emory Univ.; Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?) uses his discoveries from a lifetime of studying primates to explore similarities in human and animal emotions, with a particular interest in reconciliation and conflict resolution. He argues that behaviorism --- a focus on observable behavior --- has led to the idea that animals only react to outside stimuli. He discusses the effects of this view on human-animal relations. Building on previous studies, the author advocates for the existence of a more complex emotional life in animals. He criticizes the theory that humans and animals act first in their own selfish interest; rather, he sees social connectivity as an essential component of both human and animal societies. He concludes with a plea to rethink the way humans treat animals, especially those we raise for our own use. Applying wide-ranging examples, from primates to schools of fish, he skillfully illustrates that emotions are an essential part of intellect for all species. VERDICT Recommended for readers with an interest in the crossroads of animal and human life.—Caren Nichter, Univ. of Tennessee at Martin

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW = In this illuminating-and remarkably moving-treatise on animal empathy, Emory University primatologist de Waal (Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?) delivers some of his most damaging, and joyous, blows yet to human exceptionalism. Drawing on his own extensive experiences, de Waal recounts example after example of animals displaying humanlike emotions and "emotional intelligence." Parrots, jays, mice, and apes can "time travel," or project themselves into future events based on an awareness of the past, while monkeys and various bird species can delay gratification. This all makes sense, he argues, since "animals just can't afford to blindly run after their impulses." On a less lofty plane, chimps have been observed being cruel for fun, and rats can laugh (albeit ultrasonically). De Waal reflects that much has changed during his career. His proposal that animals can reconcile with each other after conflicts met with skepticism during the 1970s, but is now widely accepted. One remaining mystery-whether animals have "free will"-can't be answered, he argues, until humans know if they themselves actually possess that trait. Making clear that "instead of tiptoeing around" emotions, researchers must now "squarely face the degree to which all animals are driven by them," de Waal's masterful work of evolutionary psychology will leave both fellow academics and intellectually curious layreaders with much food for thought.

BOOK LIST REVIEW = *Starred Review* Do we share the same emotions as all the other animals with whom we share the planet? De Waal, celebrated primatologist and author (Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, 2016), answers this question with a resounding yes in a captivating survey of animal and human emotions. Beginning with the farewell hug shared by dying chimpanzee matriarch Mama and biologist Jan van Hooff, who had known each other for more than 40 years, de Waal takes the reader on a survey of the emotions. Laughing and smiling show obvious parallels with our primate cousins, but how many of us know that tickled rats laugh? Though scientists have always thought that sympathy and empathy were used for selfish ends, de Waal provides instances where there is no benefit to the sympathizer. Similarly, the author compares the awareness of inequality across the animal spectrum, shows why a social hierarchy leads to less conflict, examines the role of free will, and finishes with a fascinating look at politics, both human and animal. In de Waal's engaging inquiry, we roam the animal kingdom (with emphasis on his favorite primate research subjects) as he makes his most important point: we animals share the same emotions, just as we share the same organs.--Nancy Bent

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“Through colorful stories and riveting prose, de Waal firmly puts to rest the stubborn notion that humans alone in the animal kingdom experience a broad array of emotions... De Waal contributes immensely to an ethical sea change for animals.” -- Barbara J. King, NPR

“De Waal’s eye-opening observations argue for better treatment and greater appreciation of animals, even as he ensures that you will never look at them or yourself the same way again.” -- People

“Game-changing... For too long, emotion has been cognitive researchers’ third rail... But nothing could be more essential to understanding how people and animals behave. By examining emotions in both, this book puts these most vivid of mental experiences in evolutionary context, revealing how their richness, power and utility stretch across species and back into deep time.. .The book succeeds most brilliantly in the stories de Waal relates.” - Sy Montgomery, The New York Times Book Review

“An original thinker, de Waal seems to invite us to his front-row seats, sharing the popcorn as he gets us up to speed on the plot of how life works, through deeply affecting stories of primates and other animals, all dramas with great lessons for our own species.” - Vicki Constantine Croke, Boston Globe

“De Waal’s conversational writing is at times moving, often funny and almost always eye-opening... It is hard to walk away from the book, Mama’s Last Hug, without a deeper understanding of our fellow animals and our own emotions.” -- Erin Wayman, Science News

“A captivating and big-hearted book, full of compassion and brimming with insights about the lives of animals, including human ones.” --Yuval Noah Harari, New York Times best-selling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

“Before I realized Frans de Waal’s connection to Mama’s actual last hug, I sent the online video link to a large group of scientists saying, ‘I believe it is possible to view this interaction and be changed forever.’ Likewise, I believe that anyone reading this book will be changed forever. De Waal has spent so many decades watching intently and thinking deeply that he sees a planet that is deeper and more beautiful than almost anyone realizes. In these pages, you can acquire and share his beautiful, stuningly insightful view of life on Earth.” -- Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

“I doubt that I've ever read a book as good as Mama's Last Hug, because it presents in irrefutable scientific detail the very important fact that animals do have these emotions as well as the other mental features we once attributed only to people. Not only is the book exceedingly important, it is also fun to read, a real page-turner. I can't say enough good things about it except it's utterly splendid.” – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

“Frans de Waal is one of the most influential primatologists to ever walk the earth, changing the way we think of human nature by exploring its continuity with other species. He does this again in the wonderful Mama’s Last Hug, an examination of the continuum between emotion in humans and other animals. This subject is rife with groundless speculation, ideology, and badly misplaced folk intuition, and de Waal ably navigates it with deep insight, showing the ways in which our emotional lives are shared with other primates. This is an important book, wise and accessible.” – Robert Sapolsky, author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

“In the book, Frans de Waal marshals his wealth of knowledge and experience, toggling expertly between rigorous science and captivating anecdote to explain animal behavior --- humans included. While doing so, he rebukes the common conceit that we are necessarily better, or smarter, than our closest relatives.” – Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows

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[1] Angie Boyter - What animals feel = We humans like to think we are something special, that we have qualities no other animal possesses. Many people believe that our emotions are among the things that make us human. Primatologist Frans de Waal used to go along with this prevailing belief, but he has spent many years studying our closest relatives, and he says “More and more I believe that all the emotions we are familiar with can be found one way or another in all mammals, and that the variation is only in the details, elaborations, applications, and intensity.” In the book he makes his case for this position, and the result is both fascinating and convincing.

De Waal says that modern emotion research puts too much stress on language, and that is part of the problem. We humans don’t use language to recognize and respond to emotions of other humans in our daily lives; we observe; and DeWaal uses observation as his scientific tool to argue engagingly, but also convincingly, in favor of a rich emotional life for animals other than humans.

He won me over in Chapter 1 with a description of a moving reunion between Mama, a 59-year-old chimpanzee who was on her deathbed, and 80-year-old Jan van Hooff, who had been de Waal’s dissertation advisor and who had worked with Mama for many years. If you are skeptical of De Waal’s description, the reunion video is available on YouTube, and to me there is no doubt about Mama’s genuine joy at seeing her old friend.

If de Waal’s wonderful anecdotes do not convince you, consider his credentials. How often do you read a book by an IgNobel Prize winner? For those of you not familiar with the Ig Nobel prizes, they have been awarded annually since 1991 (on the Harvard campus but not by Harvard) to "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." The paper that won the Ig Nobel for de Waal was called “Faces and Behinds”, and it was a study in which his team learned that apes have a “whole-body” image of familiar individuals and could even pick out individuals they knew from pictures of that ape’s derriere. My first reaction, of course, was to laugh, but then I had to recognize that this was clever work that tells me something rather impressive about apes.

I had more laughs, some more sad moments, and a lot of thoughtful moments throughout the book. Do read it; I am confident that you will come away with a greater feeling of kinship with all the creatures, great and small.

[2] It's Just Me - Frans de Waal never disappoints = Frans de Waal has always offered insightful looks at animals and this most recent book is no exception. Some of this will be familiar to those who have read de Waal’s other books, but there is new information and insights here, as well.

[3] David Keymer - READ IT! = From his 1982 Chimpanzee Politics on, animal ethologist de Waal has explored and commented on the parallels in human and animal (primarily simian) behavior. This book is only the latest --- the twelfth --- in a long going dialogue, the last of which was 2016’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? This book is thus about similarities between humans and animals, and the similarities are apparent and profuse. As de Waal notes repeatedly in this book, why should we be surprised that Nature repeats itself? It is simpler to build modifications on a common platform and in most respects, there is little difference structurally or functionally between ape and human. But the book is also about emotions and the role they play in intelligence.

If you have read the work of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (whom de Waal cites), it won’t come as a surprise that emotions play a vital role in our decision making process. Block emotions and you can no longer decide anything. Emotions and intellect are a package in humans, not separated entities. And de Waal makes it clear that animals, not just humans, feel these motions. A good part of this book is an attack on the science-based bias that body is inferior to mind, and then, that animals are somehow distinct from humans in our essential functions-- they don’t feel the emotions we do and thus we cannot apply to them labels like affection, grief, shame, guilt and envy.(de Waal has interesting comments on the significance of deny in social animals.) For de Waal, it is fairly simple: humans, simians, all the way down through colony fish, benefit more in the long run from cooperation than from out and out war, and thus we all have developed --- evolved --- ways to moderate our behavior in groups, and emotions are a key part of this: they give us advance but flexible signals (unlike rigid Skinnerian responses) to guide our choices in potentially fraught situations.

As always, de Waal draws on hard and observational science to make sensible conclusions from what he observes.

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