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Bird brains and aggro apes: Questioning the use of animals in the affect program theory of emotion

Philosophy of Science 74 (5):895-905 (2007)
It is a common assumption amongst theorists that the phenomenon of animal emotion supports the affect program theory of emotion. I argue that this assumption is mistaken by exploring two cases of animal emotion from studies in ethology: aggression in chimpanzees and fear in piping plovers. While the affect program theory fails to account for the cognitive complexity involved in each case, I do not argue for a cognitive theory of emotion. Instead, I suggest that paying attention to animal emotions helps the emotion theorist avoid the dichotomy between the extreme versions of the affect program theory and cognitive theories. ‡My thanks to Bart Moffatt, Ben Schulz, Jessica Slind, Katie Plasiance, Ken Waters, Mark Borrello, Susan Hawthorne, and Toben Lafrancois for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455; e-mail:
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    Paul Ekman (1992). An Argument for Basic Emotions. Cognition and Emotion 6 (3):169-200.

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