Ravens like humans can be affected by emotional contagion

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“Our findings suggest negative emotional contagion” – researchers on the raven

Research scientists
Ravens are smart and feel emotions
Raven – photo in public domain

Emotional contagion is when humans in a group affect each other; so for instance if other people are happy you might tend to be more happy and the same goes for being pessimistic. The same thing happens with ravens according to a study.

In the experiment a raven was allowed to watch another who was being fed nice food. The researchers either let the raven eat the food or took it away before it could be eaten (a form of emotional torture). They studied the watching raven’s responses. They had to try and work out whether there had been emotional contagion, specifically “negative emotional contagion”.

To do this they trained the watching raven to eat food out of boxes placed in one of two places. In one position the food was tasty and in the other it was disgusting. They placed a further box in between the two locations which was neither disgusting nor tasty. They believed that if the raven was happy it would take a chance with the “ambiguous box” containing food that was neither tasty or disgusting. Conversely, they decided that an unhappy raven would be distressed by watching the other raven being “tortured” emotionally and as a consequence would think twice about taking a chance on the ambiguous box.

They came to the conclusion that ravens might experience negative emotional contagion.

Comment: the suggestion that ravens can experience negative emotional contagion does not surprise me at all. These are smart animals. The raven is part of the crow family (corvids) which is made up of, crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers. They are smart creatures. We know that by observing them. Folklore has been built around the intelligence of these animals. Wikipedia tells me that various Germanic peoples highly revered the raven. And the sixth century BC Greek scribe Aesop featured corvids as intelligent antagonists in many fables. People are learning more about the intelligence of animals and their ability to feel emotions.