Ah, Regret.

Paw, Regret.
Wed, 3 June 2009, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Required Reading | Tags: , , ,


Do pets have regrets?  

Overzealous dog owners would say yes.   (But considering their impassioned–bordering on hysterical!–declarations of obnoxiously exaggerated pet abilities, perhaps we should ignore these people.) Conventional scientific wisdom would say no.  (Curse us uneducated masses and our damned Disney anthropomorphism!)  But now the Times is saying, “Perhaps!”  In his article “In Tucked Tail, Pangs of Regret?“, John Tierny takes a look at some emerging evidence on the subject.

[…] [A]s new reports keep appearing — moping coyotes, rueful monkeys, tigers that cover their eyes in remorse, chimpanzees that second-guess their choices — the more I wonder if animals do indulge in a little paw-wringing.

(Indeed!  Plenty of room for dry humor with today’s topic.)

The latest data comes from brain scans of monkeys trying to win a large prize of juice by guessing where it was hidden. When the monkeys picked wrongly and were shown the location of the prize, the neurons in their brain clearly registered what might have been, according to the Duke University neurobiologists who recently reported the experiment in Science.

“This is the first evidence that monkeys, like people, have ‘would-have, could-have, should-have’ thoughts,” said Ben Hayden, one of the researchers. 

Bingo!  See, monkeys and I are on the same page with this one–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced juice-related regret.  (And by juice I mean tequila.)

Now, I can appreciate the function of regret in our hilariously tragic human lives, but why in Darwin’s name would our furry (feathered, scaly, etc.) friends ever need to experience the big “R” in their food- and survival-centered little existences?

“I can well imagine that regret would be highly advantageous evolutionarily, so long as one doesn’t obsess over it, as in depression,” Dr. Platt said. “A monkey lacking in regret might act like a psychopath or a simian Don Quixote.”

Ah, the Macaque of La Mancha.  That chivalrous chimp.  That picaresque primate.  That–what’s that you say?  Shut up?  OK.

And now the author speculates–as anyone writing this article rightfully should–on other (comical) situations that could cause animals to feel regretful.  (Warning: More primate humor ahead.)

How awkward is the King Kong Syndrome? Both male and female gorillas have become so fond of their human keepers that they’ve made sexual overtures — one even took to dragging his keeper by her hair. After the inevitable rebuff, do they regret ruining a beautiful friendship?

Anyone else thinking of an animal kingdom version of textsfromlastnight.com, here?  (We could go a lot of places with this one.  But I’m not sure we should.)

And lastly, we can’t leave our feline friends–or should I say, “frenemies”?–out of this discussion:

Do pet cats ever regret anything?

I’m thinking nooooot really.  (Major Tom: “NOPE!”)

Personally, I do not think that our poodle*, Jiggs, generally experiences any feelings of regret.



…but I guess we’ll never know.  If only dogs could talk!  (Actually, Jiggs can talk!  He’s very smart!  Oh, and he can dance!  And rescue small children from danger, and empathize with TV show characters, and play Scrabble, and do long division… here, look–he’ll show you!  Watch this !!!)





2 Comments so far
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that is one handsome pood. and he is always filled with regret when he walks over to his food dish only find it empty.

Comment by Erin

if you give a mouse a cookie…


Comment by wix

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