Do insects have emotions?

I'm not very well-versed on the subject, and I'd like to know. Do they experience emotions like we do? Do they have something else? Does science even know? If you want to link me an article or page on it, go ahead. Thanks.

Note: If you can answer the same questions for me about non-human animals, that would be awesome.


Sorry, I should have been clearer. If you do know, or think you know, the answer, could you provide a small explanation, or a link? I'd just like to know how it works. Thanks.

6 Answers

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    First let's call emotions part of the set of things called "qualia," which is a term that means those subjective mental states that we experience as "feels," including desires, drives, emotions, etc (I know, the definition is very strange and no one agrees on what exactly it is). Some philosophers believe it is technically impossible to know if any animal besides humans have qualia or not. This is related to the mind-body problem first made famous by Descartes -- many philosophers are dualists and believe that the mind, or "consciousness," is not created by physical material. If that is the case we probably can't know if other animals have emotions because we do not have access to knowledge about the "immaterial" world of minds. So if you are a dualist than most likely, you also believe that it is impossible to know if insects have emotions. (This position is dangerous because it can be argued that I don't know if anyone else has consciousness except myself).

    Other philosophers and most scientists are materialists and believe that the mind, consciousness, and perceptions, are generated by the physical world. Scientists believe that primal emotions are generated by inner parts of the brain called the limbic system, particularly the amygdala. These brain parts are evolutionarily very old, dating back to reptiles. However, they are not as old as insects. Humans also have very complex emotions that are probably at least partially dependent on higher brain areas like the cortex, which is definitely not something that insects have. Our brains are very complex; you can think of it as an input-FUNCTION-output machine, where the FUNCTION part is very complicated. That is to say, the function is capable of analyzing and transducing the input in many different ways to generate a complex output.

    What do insects have? They have an extraordinarily rudimentary nervous system whose FUNCTION elements are very basic. An input of very high heat, for example, is only capable of being transduced into an output that is the insect quickly moving away from the heat source. Humans, on the other hand, have many other possible outputs. We may rub the place we were burned, we may seek medical aid or attempt to treat ourselves in many ways, and we may feel emotions like anger, frustration, or depression at having been injured. The insect does not have the complex nervous system to feel emotions.

    So the answer really depends on some philosophical meta questions that no one knows for sure.

    Source(s): Neurobiology major, philosophy minor.
  • jpfeff
    Lv 5
    9 years ago

    No, insects do not have emotions. How do we know? Insects do not have two key brain structures that would allow them to process emotion- specifically, the cortex and the limbic system. The limbic system as a whole is responsible for our base emotions- love, fear, anger, joy, etc; these emotions are sent in their raw form to the cortex- where we do all our reasoning and thinking. So, the way emotion works (in a very tiny nutshell) is as follows: We interpret a stimulus from the outside world, which is then sent to our brain. In the brain, our limbic system reacts emotionally- and this message is then sent to the cortex for interpretation. Because insects have neither structure, they do not have emotion.

  • 9 years ago

    They must be able to feel pain. Every living creature must be able to feel pain otherwise it wouldn't know when it was damaged. It could accidentally tear itself about without knowing it. They can most likely feel fear as well. I'm saying this because that seems like a pretty important survival trait.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    I guess it's possible haha

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  • 9 years ago

    Yes. they dont really have the real shitty ****.

  • 9 years ago

    They might. :)

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