Animal Psychology: Complexity of Thought and Emotion

In the end of Chapter I Freud references “Animal psychology” (2), stating that his “general schematic picture of a psychical apparatus may be supposed to apply as well to the higher animals which resemble man generally” (2). I found this point to be fascinating. Do animals experience emotion the way in which people do? Can they distinguish between need and desire? Is their psyche compartmentalized into the same ultimate categorization of id, ego, and superego?

In my opinion, I think that this could be a possibility based off of my own personal experience with dogs and cats in addition to stories I have heard. I believe that animals experience emotion and make decisions based off of such feelings. Just a couple hours ago, a friend was telling me how her dad when he was a kid fell into a deep pit, and would most likely have died if not for his pet dog who ran barking to the nearest adult and led her to the place where his owner had fallen in. How could this event have taken place without the dog recognizing that his owner was in danger, and that in order to save him he had to involve someone who was capable of rescuing the little boy, indicating the capacity of emotion and decision-making based off of it? There are so many stories similar to this one that I consider it true evidence of animals’ capacity for complex emotion and emotional thought.

From my own personal experience, my dog has always gotten extremely excited when my family is enthusiastic about something. He will jump up and down, wagging his tail, any time we talk in loud voices excitedly or start laughing about something. Furthermore, when I am sad or another family member looks a little down he will sit down by our sides, and put his head in our laps, looking concerned.

Some may be skeptical of my theory, but just based off of what I know and have heard, I think that animals do have a certain emotional capacity, and display certain characteristics, behaviors, and actions that imply complex thought. Some species display affection for their offspring in such a way that could only be described as love. They show concern when things are going poorly, and they consistently mourn the loss of their loved ones, some even becoming unable to move past such deaths, slowly wasting away until they pass themselves. Also, just think about animals that became friends with others outside of their species, or who adopt offspring of other animals. These are actions that go beyond instinct, displaying complex emotion.

In conclusion, although I am unsure of how we would measure whether or not animals’ psyche is compartmentalized into id, ego, and superego, or their ability to distinguish between need and desire, I am convinced that animals experience emotion and make decisions based off of these feelings.

Any thoughts?

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