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What does it feel like to be a bat? Searching for ways to investigate conscious emotion in non-human animals

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Title: What does it feel like to be a bat? Searching for ways to investigate conscious emotion in non-human animals
Author: Sánchez-Suárez, Walter
Department: Department of Animal Biosciences
Program: Animal and Poultry Science
Advisor: Mason, Georgia
Abstract: The capacity for conscious emotion is the crucial attribute for deserving moral consideration. Unfortunately, the impossibility of knowing what it is like to be another being from her own point of view – knowing “what it is like to be a bat”, as Thomas Nagel famously put it – implies that we can only make inferences regarding whether she can experience conscious emotion. In humans we take advantage of verbal self-reports for coming up with strong inferences in this regard. In the absence of verbal reports, however, the tools we have for investigating which beings are capable of conscious emotion are less conclusive. In this work I examine the relationship between consciousness and emotion, the limitations of the tools we currently have for inferring primary conscious emotion in non-verbal beings, and propose promising new strategies for making progress with this task. The second part of this thesis provides evidence from verbal humans suggesting that at high levels of discrimination performance, the use of internal states as discriminative stimuli in an operant paradigm is highly likely to depend on conscious processing of this information. I therefore argue that this paradigm is a behavioural marker of states of conscious emotion in the absence of verbal self-reports, and thus, if emotional states are used as discriminative stimuli, a potential valid tool for coming up with stronger inferences when investigating conscious emotion in non-verbal animals.
Date: 2016-01
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada