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“mountain gorillas don’t respect national borders”

February 6, 2013

File:Gorilla sign.jpg

Panksepp stuck an electrode into the medial hypothalamus of a cat. At first, the animal was perfectly peaceful. When Panksepp administered an electrical charge, it leaped viciously at his head, a hissing spitting tangle of fangs and claws. As soon as he turned off the stimulation, the cat relaxed into a peaceful state and could be petted with no sign of danger. Humans who have had electrical stimulation in the corresponding brain locations also reported intense rage, which lends credence to the idea of animal subjectivity.

Old-school behaviorists, resistant to the idea of animal emotions, might describe what the cat underwent as ‘sham rage’, but Panksepp is biting the bullet and calling it what it looks like — rage. And ethologists who study animal behaviour increasingly accept the idea that fear keeps animals away from predators, lust draws them toward each other, panic motivates their social solidarity and care glues their parent-offspring bonds. Just like us, they have an inner life because it helps them navigate their outer life.

Read More | “Animal Spirits” | Stephen T Asma | Aeon