Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Colin Klein and Andrew B. Barron, Insects have the capacity for subjective experience


Klein & Barron’s (K & B’s) suggestion that insects have the capacity for phenomenal consciousness is a refreshing and challenging departure from the cautious and agnostic stance that is taken by many researchers when considering this possibility. It is impossible to falsify the sceptic’s view that neural and behavioural parallels between humans and insects need not imply either similar conscious experience or even any phenomenal consciousness in insects at all. But if K & B are right, it is important to consider the possible contents of insect consciousness. Here we discuss whether affective consciousness, with its implications for potential suffering, might also be part of the simulated perceptual conscious world that K & B propose.

Author Biography

Elizabeth S. Paul, Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol, comparative psychologist, studies “emotion” and “mood” in human and non-human animals, reward processing in reinforcement learning, how emotions and moods influence decision-making, and empathy and individual variation in anthropomorphic thinking.


Michael T. Mendl, Professor of Animal Behavior and Welfare, University of Bristol, studies how attention, memory and decision-making influence and are influenced by affective state. In humans, affect-induced modulation of decision-making leads to “cognitive bias.” Can it be observed in animals and used as a novel indicator of animal affect (emotion) and welfare?