Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 364

The themes of Mama's Last Hug (2019) by Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal include the difference between emotions and feelings and how emotions inform behaviors. The title is taken from the subject of a viral video in which biologist Jan van Hooff (himself a mentor of the author) hugs a dying chimpanzee ("Mama") at the Burgers' Zoo in the Netherlands.

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The author notes the difference between emotions and feelings. The former, he states, are measurable. For example, the author claims that he can measure facial expressions in animals in order to know emotions (such as affection, fear, sexual desire, etc.). The tie between emotions and expressions is a demonstrable one. Emotions are caused by physiology and brain chemistry. Feelings, however, are described by the author as a recognition or awareness of one's emotions. The author claims that he is comfortable with guessing feelings, but acknowledges that he cannot know them. In brief, the author explains that emotions give meaning to life by focusing the mind and body to allow for adaptive (not instinctive) actions such as feeling, eating, pursuing, etc. The emotions represent a more flexible and sophisticated system than instinct, according to the author. The author furthermore claims that non-human species exhibit the six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise), but also a broader spectrum of emotions that other behavioral scientists call "secondary" (such as attraction and bonding).

While...

(The entire section contains 364 words.)

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