Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves
Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research. Following up on the best-selling Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, which investigated animal intelligence, Mama's Last Hug delivers a fascinating exploration of the rich emotional lives of animals.
Mama's Last Hug begins with the death of Mama, a chimpanzee matriarch who formed a deep bond with biologist Jan van Hooff. When Mama was dying, van Hooff took the unusual step of visiting her in her night cage for a last hug. Their goodbyes were filmed and went viral. Millions of people were deeply moved by the way Mama embraced the professor, welcoming him with a big smile while reassuring him by patting his neck, in a gesture often considered typically human but that is in fact common to all primates. This story and others like it form the core of de Waal's argument, showing that humans are not the only species with the capacity for love, hate, fear, shame, guilt, joy, disgust, and empathy.
De Waal discusses facial expressions, the emotions behind human politics, the illusion of free will, animal sentience, and, of course, Mama's life and death. The message is one of continuity between us and other species, such as the radical proposal that emotions are like organs: we don't have a single organ that other animals don't have, and the same is true for our emotions. Mama's Last Hug opens our hearts and minds to the many ways in which humans and other animals are connected, transforming how we view the living world around us.
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A captivating and big-hearted book, full of compassion and brimming with insights about the lives of animals, including human ones.--Yuval Noah Harari, New York Times best-selling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Game-changing....For too long, emotion has been cognitive researchers' third rail....But nothing could be more essential to understanding how people and animals behave. By examining emotions in both, this book puts these most vivid of mental experiences in evolutionary context, revealing how their richness, power and utility stretch across species and back into deep time....The book succeeds most brilliantly in the stories de Waal relates.--Sy Montgomery
Through colorful stories and riveting prose, de Waal firmly puts to rest the stubborn notion that humans alone in the animal kingdom experience a broad array of emotions....De Waal contributes immensely to an ethical sea change for animals.--Barbara J. King
An original thinker, [de Waal] seems to invite us to his front-row seats, sharing the popcorn as he gets us up to speed on the plot of how life works, through deeply affecting stories of primates and other animals, all dramas with great lessons for our own species.--Vicki Constantine Croke
De Waal's eye-opening observations argue for better treatment and greater appreciation of animals, even as he ensures that you'll never look at them--or yourself--the same way again.