Friday, June 20, 2008


Is regret a uniquely human emotion? Is it even an emotion at all?


Jared said...

alright can I try and define emotion?
Great, here goes nothing.

An involuntary sensation meant to influence actions and decision making, produced by the processing of external stimula, likely evolved to facilitate quick reactions to situations where there is no time to wait for higher reason to get up off it's butt and make a good decision. (like in the case of animals that don't HAVE a capacity for higher reasoning)

e.g. If you see a big hairy thing with long teeth staring at you, you do not try to determine its intentions, you get SCARED, no time to think...

Regret? how about

a nagging feeling that some past choice was made in error.

Yeah, I think regret definitely falls under the term emotion.

As far as regret being uniquely human, I'd wager no.

emotions are closer to instinct than reason, though I'd consider the memory-based emotions of regret, nostalgia, guilt, mourning, etc are harder to come by, but likely show up in any animal with a respectable memory.

The Foodist said...

I would say yes, regret is a pretty human only emotion.

Reasoning: Animals dont feel guilt, guilt is what makes you regret.

In my eyes its just as simple as that.

The ability to displace and ignore regret is uniquely human as well, we can teach ourselves not to regret things. To not let guilt cloud reason and not let our past choices confuse or inflict the present ones... though still learning from them

just my two pennies

Rebecca said...

I regret your face.

I think the better question is, what emotions do animals have? There's a big diff between the physical/emotional response to a big hairy monster, and the feeling one gets when thinking of their grandma's pancakes - one requires more processing, to be sure.

The O says that cats can't feel jealousy, only territorialness. So, I'd say, definitely that animals feel fear, lonliness, happiness, contentment...not sure about much else.

Yes, btw, that means that I don't think the cats are capable of loving us.

The Foodist said...

as long as you keep the food coming Becky, thats all they care about.

ps- Your mom feels something! gigity

Bartoneus said...

Glad it was an interesting question, considering we see different answers from different people! I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole thing, I'll have to get more into it at some point later on.

Amethyst said...

I think regret is an emotion. I don't have any arguments to defend that stance, which is why I wrote "I think".

As for if it's uniquely human, I guess you have to first ask if animals take responsibility for their actions. Let's say a well-loved family dog bites the 10-year-old kid on the wrist by accident while they're playing. The dog loves the kid, but now the kid is avoiding him, not playing with him, and everyone seems mad at the dog. So, the dog might cower and whimper, seeming depressed and unmotivated, or just eager to be loved again, and someone usually makes a comment in situations like : "see? he knows he did something bad."

The question is, did the dog's behaviour change because he knows he bit the kid and feels bad, or because the people around him are behaving differently?

That, I don't know.

I'm sure animals can feel loss, anger, pain, joy, bliss, loneliness, laziness, and other feelings.