Would you punch a bear to save your dog?

After today’s class on the self and consciousness, I started thinking about the connection between humans and animals. A recent article from ABC news (oddly categorized under ‘Technology’?) about humans responses to animals. Brain activity at the neuronal level was measured in the amygdala, as well as a few other regions. Surprisingly, showing a person a picture of an animal elicited more brain activity in the amygdala than showing them a picture of another person. The type of animal in the picture also didn’t change the amount of brain activity, so a picture of a scary animal (i.e. a bear) elicited the same response as a cute baby animal (i.e. a puppy). The article gives an evolutionary explanation for this, such that the right amygdala evolved to respond to other animals in the environment, regardless of the type of response necessary to these animals. I found this to be so interesting. It points to the really interesting fact that humans are such social creatures, even across species, that we emotionally respond to the presence of a non-threatening animal in equal magnitude to the presence of an animal that could possibly maim or kill us. To me, this finding was overshadowed by the finding that there was less activity when viewing a picture of another person. Again, as social creatures, how can we not respond with intensity to the sight of another person. Aren’t we supposed to be really concerned with creating emotional bonds with other humans? I can understand if we responded more strongly to the picture of a predator than a picture of another human; what I cannot understand is that viewing a picture of, for example, a cat would cause a greater response. Maybe this means that we are able to have immediate emotional impressions with animals, and not with humans. Perhaps the interaction with an unfamiliar person is necessary to create an emotional response, whereas with animals it can be immediate.


3 thoughts on “Would you punch a bear to save your dog?

  1. I wonder if the response from the amygdala and other brain regions would be different if we were presented with the real deal. Having run into bears while hiking, I have experienced my body’s fear response.

    I also wonder if the pictures of humans were strangers or familiar? I know that when I see (even a picture) of my family or close friends, it makes me really happy.


  2. The catchy title caught my attention. That is extremely bizarre that a dog and bear would exhibit the same amount of brain activity in the amygdala. I would think especially if you were obsessed with dogs and had one of your own it would initiate more activity than an animal that you have less of a connection to such as a frog.


  3. This is really not relevant but a few summers ago we read about bears as models for Alzheimer’s disease… bizarre, but good for many funny and imaginary lab scenarios.


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