Scientists more or less agree that emotions in humans act as a “mental guide” and affect our behavior. Emotions like fear, sadness and joy tell us which situations are good for us and which are bad. As a result of an emotion people react to a certain situation and may adapt their behavior. Emotions are therefor important for our functioning. Research has identified six basic emotions: anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear and surprise .
From an evolutionary point of view there seem to be no reason to assume that this would work differently in animals. However, it is difficult to determine whether they experience emotions in the same way as humans. It is not always clear what an animal feels, and you can easily be wrong in judging the nature and strength of their feelings. Yet in everyday life emotions are regularly assigned to animals. We might therefore assume that animals ‘ use ‘ their emotions to adjust their behavior to a certain situation Emotions are important for their functioning.
(This research is being done with Marie-Jose Enders and others)
- Su, B., Naoko, K. & Martens, P. (2018). How Japanese companion dog and cat owners’ degree of attachment relates to the attribution of emotions to their animals, PLOS ONE, 13(1).
- Pim Martens, Marie-José Enders-Slegers & Jessica K. Walker (2016) The Emotional Lives of Companion Animals: Attachment and Subjective Claims by Owners of Cats and Dogs, Anthrozoös, 29:1, 73-88.