(NaturalNews) The debate over whether or not animals experience human-like emotions has been a subject of interest for many over the years. While skeptics insist that animals are only driven by instincts, others disagree, pointing out that all mammals share the same neural apparatus and are therefore capable of experiencing similar emotions.
Some studies have compared portions of the brain that get fired up while experiencing emotions like excitement, anger and sadness, among others. "The amygdala is one such example, and it's pretty ancient evolutionarily speaking," reported HowStuffWorks.
"So since our brains are hardwired the same way as an animal's, the theory is that it makes intuitive sense for similar stuff to be going on up there."
All mammals share the same neural apparatus
Animal emotions seem to be quite complex. For instance, when your dog tears up your most valuable couch cushions while you're away at work, it might be because he's experiencing anxiety caused by loneliness, and his restlessness, or destruction, could be a coping mechanism.
Believers in animal emotions hypothesize that some animals are capable of feeling a variety of emotions including happiness, sadness, grief, curiosity, anger, empathy and fear, but what about jealousy?
Jealousy is very much considered a complex, social-structured human trait; however, anyone that has a pet will likely tell you about a time when that pet acted jealous.
Christine Harris, an emotional researcher at the University of California, San Diego, conducted an experiment designed to test the theory that jealousy is a primordial emotion experienced by a host of other animals, not just humans, according to a report by News Ledge.
Researchers studied the reactions of 36 dogs in their owner's homes, videotaping their response to their owners ignoring them for three different reasons.
Dogs feel jealousy just like us
An animated stuffed dog that barked and wagged its tail, a jack-o-lantern and a pop-up children's book that played melodies served as the three items. Dogs were twice as likely to try to push or touch their owner while they played with the fake dog. One-third of the dogs tried to insert themselves between the owner and the animated dog, and one-quarter snapped at the fake dog. One dog reacted aggressively to both the jack-o-lantern and the pop-up book.
"These weren't just aggressive acts they carried out. They tried positive things like being more affectionate to regain their loved one's attention, to try and gain their relationship back," said Harris.
"Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings, or that it's an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships," added Harris.
"Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one's affection."
In regard to the dogs that didn't show jealousy, "It's possible these are not very bright dogs, who didn't even realize these items were something to be jealous over, or maybe they were very bright dogs who were not fooled by these inanimate objects. Another possibility is that the bond may not have been very strong with the owner."
Skeptics argue that it's difficult to truly detect whether or not animals have emotions because of something called anthropomorphism, or humans projecting their own traits onto animals.
Some theorize that animals may have developed emotions in response to adaptation to different situations, and that in the wild animals do not learn "social niceties."
However, numerous examples debunk this theory. Elephants, sea lions, dolphins, monkeys, bears, geese, moose and many more seem to exhibit intense grief following the death of loved ones.
While more research is needed, overall, it seems to be a bit egocentric on mankind's part to assume that we're the only ones who feel emotions.