The possibility of conscious experiences of emotions in non-human animals has been much less explored than that of conscious experiences associated with carrying out complex cognitive tasks. However, no great cognitive powers are needed to feel hunger or pain and it may be that the capacity to feel emotions is widespread in the animal kingdom. Since plants can show surprisingly sophisticated ‘‘choice’’ and ‘‘decision-making’’ mechanisms and yet we would not wish to imply that they are conscious, attribution of emotions to animals has to be done with care. Whether or not an animal possesses anticipatory mechanisms associated with positive and negative reinforcement learning may be a guide as to whether it has evolved emotions.
Marian Stamp Dawkins, Animal Minds and Animal Emotions, Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 40, Issue 6, December 2000, Pages 883–888, https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/40.6.883