Human brain is hardwired to have an emotional response to seeing an animal

Study shows people automatically respond to seeing an animal (or picture of one)-

It makes intuitive sense that when people are shown a photo of an animal, any animal, perceived as friendly, dangerous, rare, useful, whatever, they automatically respond with emotion in way they don’t if shown a photo of a rock, chair, tree, automobile, etc.

The emotion is not socially learned but sits in a primative part of the right hemisphere of the brain. Of course, once the response takes place whether a person is happy, frightened, grabs a bow and arrow or camera, runs, hides, chases . . . these things are socially learned.

It is in our nature to notice and have a feeling, an emotion, when we see an animal. This is likely due to our close relationship to them as prey, hunter, companion, and so forth of many thousands of years. It is a part of us.

A recent study gives details. ScienceDaily: Science News. Captivated by Critters: Humans Are Wired to Respond to Animals





  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    In my many years as a biology teacher,wildlife observer and photographer, I am convinced that not only are we hardwired to pay attention to animals, we are hardwired to share our food with them. A two year old will offer food to a duck, a puppy or kitten without any coaching.
    This human trait causes problems in our national parks as rangers try to stop visitors from feeding the animals. They are fighting millions of years of evolution and will never win the battle.
    As a biology teacher, I could never leave fish food near an aquarium because every fifteen year old student that came by would dump more food in the tank to watch the fish eat it.
    I once kept a large Gopher Snake in a display window in the school hallway. If I put some mice in with the snake during the lunch break, it would draw hundreds of students to watch the snake eat the mice. They would skip lunch to watch.

  2. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    Could it be that it is not only sex that sells but pictures of cute puppies and majestic poses of wild animals that will do the job as well?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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