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The Inner Life of Animals

Love, Grief, and Compassion – Surprising Observations of a Hidden World

By Peter Wohlleben
19-minute read
Audio available
The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion – Surprising Observations of a Hidden World by Peter Wohlleben

In The Inner Life of Animals (2017) Peter Wohlleben discusses the latest research on animal feelings and emotion. He draws insights from multiple studies as well as from his personal experiences of the woodland where he has lived and worked for decades. The book argues that animals’ inner lives are really not so different from our own.

  • Everyone who owns a pet
  • Anyone interested in psychology and neurology
  • Animal rights activists who could use some new arguments

Peter Wohlleben is a German forester and the New York Times-bestselling author of the renowned The Hidden Life of Trees. He spent many years working as a civil servant in the forestry commission. He now works in his own woodland where he tries to apply alternative and more environmentally friendly forestry methods.

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The Inner Life of Animals

Love, Grief, and Compassion – Surprising Observations of a Hidden World

By Peter Wohlleben
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion – Surprising Observations of a Hidden World by Peter Wohlleben
Synopsis

In The Inner Life of Animals (2017) Peter Wohlleben discusses the latest research on animal feelings and emotion. He draws insights from multiple studies as well as from his personal experiences of the woodland where he has lived and worked for decades. The book argues that animals’ inner lives are really not so different from our own.

Key idea 1 of 12

Though we shouldn’t anthropomorphize animals, evolution suggests they have similar emotions.

Have you imagined what it would be like to read an animal’s mind? Well, by the end of this book-in-blinks you might have an idea. But we’ve got to begin with some basics. There are some pitfalls to avoid when it comes to discussing animals and emotions.

For starters, it’s all too easy for us humans to anthropomorphize animals, that is, project human-like qualities onto them that they don’t possess.

Take the squirrel. It has those big eyes and that bushy tail. Seems harmless enough. But that cuteness is distracting. Squirrels are pretty ruthless predators, quite content to gobble up nestling baby birds. That’s not to say that squirrels are “bad,” in the moral sense, either. It’s just the way they’ve been programmed. They behave this way to survive.

Just because squirrels provoke an emotional response in us, it doesn’t mean that we have a deep insight into their nature. In fact, it tells us more about us than the animals.

There’s no doubt humans are different from animals. However, from an evolutionary perspective, there’s a strong argument to be made that emotionally we do share some similarities.

After all, humans and animals do have some common ancestors. And this biological bequest forms our emotions. We certainly have much in common with other mammals, especially regarding brain and nervous system structures.

These similarities in brain structures would suggest that we share similar feelings with other animals, especially if we're closely related. And with good reason. Emotions are primarily handled in the relatively old parts of our brains, namely those sections that are alike in all animals.

For instance, when they give birth, both nanny-goats and human mothers produce large quantities of the neurotransmitter oxytocin – a hormone that bonds the mother to her offspring.

So, there seem to be some differences and some similarities between humans and animals when it comes to emotional consciousness. But why exactly is that?

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