MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Do animals fall in love?

Date: Tue May 9 15:36:31 2000
Posted By: gibran shah, Grad student, psychology, university of calgary
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 957154460.Zo

Dear Jun,

Experiments showing that animals feel emotions similar to humans is more
difficult than you might think. The reason is that emotions aren't something
you can observe in others. There is no sure fire way of "seeing" if certain
emotions like love exist in animals. However, we can observe animal behavior
that might indicate underlying emotions, and several studies have shown this. 

The best way to go about answering your question would be to think
about it in an evolutionary context. That is, emotions play significant
roles in helping a species function well and survive. In humans, love serves
to bring us closer together and to cooperate with each other. This function
is way more vital in certain species like humans and other mammals because
we depend greatly on each other for survival. This concept is emphasized in
the familiar phrase "man is a social animal." 

From this logic, it follows that any species that requires social interaction 
is also capable of "love," or something like it anyway. This is particularly true
in the mother-offspring relationship that is blatantly evident in all mammals. 
In fact, it seems like a type of love that just "kicks in" instinctively.
However, there might be a few key features that distinguish between animal
"love" and human "love". When we talk about love between two people, for
example, we usually think about romance. This is something that most animals
probably don't experience. Romantic love involves such things as intimacy
(sharing and communicating feelings), creativity (writing poems, bringing
home flowers, etc.), and respect for each others needs. Animal love is more
like enjoying each other's company, and  so without any desire for intimacy,
creativity or respect may not be present.


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