MAMA’S LAST HUG
Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves
by Frans de Waal
New York Times best-selling author Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefrontof animal research. Following up on his 2016 bestseller Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, which investigated animal behavior and intelligence, his new book,MAMA’S LAST HUG: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves [W. W.Norton and Company, March 12, 2019; $27.95 hardcover], delivers a fascinating exploration of the rich emotional lives of animals that is just as enlightening and provocative. Once again de Waal proves the perfect guide to the cutting-edge research that can help us understand the animal world. With dramatic stories of rats, horses, dogs, dolphins, elephants, and apes, among others, de Waal shows that humans are not the only species with the capacity for love, hate, fear, shame, joy, generosity, and empathy.
De Waal begins MAMA’S LAST HUG with the death of Mama, a fifty-nine-year-old chimpanzee matriarch who formed a deep bond with her caretaker, the biologist Jan van Hoof. When Mama was dying, van Hoof filmed their goodbyes and witnessed something remarkable: the emotions that Mama expressed were every bit as profound as those of van Hoof—she was sad to leave him but also recognized the sadness he felt and responded to it by comforting him.
This story and others like it form the core of de Waal’s argument. He points to lab experiments in which rats, when given the choice between eating a cookie or helping a fellow rat in distress, will choose to help. Dogs have been known to “adopt” the injuries of their companions, pretending to limp in response to the pain experienced by their owners. Chimpanzees like Mama have such a sophisticated sense of empathy that they grasp concepts of fairness and justice and use them to great effect inside their communities. In one common experiment, chimpanzees rejected food-sharing offers that seemed unequal, even when that rejection meant the participating chimps received no food at all. This is, notably, exactly what humans do in the same experiment.
De Waal discusses a whole range of complex emotions and how they manifest themselves in physical behavior and facial expressions. Both dolphin and killer whale mothers have been known to carry along the bodies of their dead children, often for days. Bonobos have deep-belly laughs, dogs hang their heads in shame, horses roll their eyes out of fear. Elephants revisit the bones of their loved ones, sometimes years after their companion has passed away. All of these have human counterparts.
De Waal also looks at the darker side of emotional intelligence. He recounts the story of an alpha male chimpanzee who was killed by an experienced older rival and a young-up-and-coming male. The calculating manner in which the duo trapped and killed the former leader, and the brutality of the violence done to the deposed alpha male, left no doubt in de Waal’s mind that what he witnessed was a case of murder among the chimps.
Following the lead of Aristotle, who imagined animals as a sort of reacting machine, Western society has committed to the idea that there is a fundamental distinction between the emotional life of humans and all other species. This line of reasoning extends to modern thinkers like Richard Dawkins, who suggests that all signs of emotional life in animals are illusory byproducts of a deeper relentless and amoral dive to maximize genetic duplication. De Waal systematically challenges all of these outdated theories, opening our hearts and minds to the many ways in which humans and other animals are connected to each other and can form the sorts of complex bonds that last a lifetime. MAMA’S LAST HUG is one of those rare books that will transform how readers view the living world around them and will shift how they understand their own connection to a family of all living things.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Frans de Waal has been named one ofTIMEmagazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Theauthor of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
TITLE: MAMA’S LAST HUG
SUBTITLE: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves
AUTHOR: Frans de Waal
PUB DATE: March 12, 2019
PRICE: $27.95 hardcover
PAGE COUNT: 336
- Early Praise for Mama’s Last Hug -
“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
“I doubt that I've ever read a book as good as Mama's Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions, because it presents in irrefutable scientific detail the very important fact that animals do have these emotions as well as the other mental features we once attributed only to people. Not only is the book exceedingly important, it's also fun to read, a real page-turner. I can't say enough good things about it except it's utterly splendid.”
—Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
“Before I realized Frans de Waal's connection to Mama's actual last hug, I sent the online video link to a large group of scientists saying, ‘I believe it is possible to view this interaction and be changed forever.’ Likewise, I believe that anyone reading this book will be changed forever. De Waal has spent so many decades watching intently and thinking deeply that he sees a planet that is deeper and more beautiful than almost anyone realizes. In these pages, you can acquire and share his beautiful, shockingly insightful view of life on Earth.”
—Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“After you've read Mama's Last Hug it becomes obvious that animals have emotions. Learn how
they resemble us in many ways.”
—Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation
“Frans de Waal is one of the most influential primatologists to ever walk the earth, changing the way we think of human nature by exploring its continuity with other species. He does this again in the wonderful Mama’s Last Hug, an examination of the continuum between emotion in humans and other animals. This subject is rife with groundless speculation, ideology, and badly misplaced folk intuition, and de Waal ably navigates it with deep insight, showing the ways in which our emotional lives are shared with other primates. This is an important book, wise and accessible.”
—Robert Sapolsky, author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
“Another fascinating book from Frans de Waal. Once again, he makes us think long and hard
about the true nature of animal emotions.”
—Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape