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Frans de Waal: ‘I Cannot Name Any Emotion That Is Uniquely Human’

I cannot name any emotion that is uniquely human. There are maybe emotions related to religion, let’s say spirituality, but even for that, I cannot exclude that animals have those kinds of feelings. Who says they don’t? In humans, religious feelings are not expressed in the face. That kind of emotion is not visible. And if emotions are not visible, how can we exclude that it exists in other species?

HOPE REESE: ‘Humans are not exceptional — at least not when it comes to our status in the animal kingdom, according to primatologist Frans de Waal. De Waal has been studying primates for decades, researching their capacity for cooperation and ability to express guilt, shame, and other nuanced emotions, and has written more than a dozen books on these topics.

In his latest book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions, de Waal delivers persuasive evidence that shows exactly how animals can display deep and complex emotions — which are, it must be noted, different from feelings — and how closely connected to humans our primate siblings really are. Despite the inclination of many researchers to dismiss the concept that animals have rich emotional lives, de Waal illustrates how behavioral research provides evidence that not only do animals experience the same emotions as humans, but that there are no “uniquely human emotions.”

De Waal — who is currently a professor at Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center — spoke to me over the phone from his office in Atlanta. This interview has been edited for length and clarity’.  SOURCE…

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