Animal emotions and empathy

20.5 kl 20 i Byens Lys, Christiania

Do animals show empathy? Are there any signs of morality in animal societies? Can a monkey distinguish right from wrong? And what are the standards of what is right and what is not? Does morality evolve in time both for human societies and animal societies?

It is hard to imagine that empathy—a characteristic so basic to the human species that it emerges early in life, and is accompanied by strong physiological reactions—came into existence only when our lineage split off from that of the apes. It must be far older than that. Examples of empathy in other animals would suggest a long evolutionary history to this capacity in humans. Over the last several decades, we’ve seen increasing evidence of empathy in other species.

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on animal emotions such as fear and attachment, the taboo that has hampered animal research in this area is outdated. 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.

Frans de Waal 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 organizers of adaptive responses to environmental stimuli.

If you like this kind of stuff you should read: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Afterwards, Detekt will be playing music compositions based on the sounds and rhythms of human hearts affected by fibrillation, systoles and other abnormalities. The music style is handplayed electronic with a dark and funky vibe, and their live setup is based on bass/synth bass, keyboard and a percussionist that also triggers samples, plus visuals.

Entrance to the event is free. No registration is necessary. Doors open at 19:00.

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