What is the Most Emotionally Intelligent Animal?

August 23, 2018
There is currently a consensus stating that several species feel and are aware of emotions. Whenever there is a disagreement, it's related to the feelings of the moment.

The answer to this question is simple and obvious: human beings are without a doubt the most emotionally intelligent animal. So, maybe we should slightly change the question and use the word “living being” rather than “animal”. But no matter what, humans are still animals.

However, beyond humans, science has spent centuries trying to measure, quantify, and qualify the level of cerebral development in the rest of the members of the “Animal Kingdom”.

In the year 343 BC, Aristotle wrote an essay on zoology, “History of Animals“. It consists of 10 books where Greek philosophy applied scientific methods. He wrote that animals show behaviors that could qualify them as being wise. Aristotle claimed that some species are capable of imitating human behavior.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Although it’s a concept that has been often used since the middle of the 20th Century. It wasn’t until 1995 that the term gained popularity due to the American psychologist Daniel Goleman when he published his book, “Emotional Intelligence“.

Emotional intelligence is considered to be nothing more than the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions in the context of their own personal objectives. It also covers the methods used by mankind to manage their interpersonal relationships.

Based on his own personal experience, Goleman’s theories have gradually moved into the field of ethology. Currently, there is a consensus to claim that several animal species — including humans — feel and are conscious of their emotions. Whenever there is a disagreement, it’s related to the feelings of the moment.

Emotion vs Feelings

Emotions are stimuli which cause changes in a living being, which can or cannot be expressed physically. They are also defined as psychophysiological expressions and are linked to the traits of each individual.

Apes are an emotionally intelligent animal

On the other hand, the term ‘feelings’ refers to the results of that emotion. Emotions and feelings, are different due to the fact that emotions are spontaneous and often unconscious, whereas feelings involve a certain level of consciousness.

Which is the Most Emotionally Intelligent Animal?

Setting aside the idea of “feelings”, dogs express the most emotions. There is also evidence that these popular pets can identify their owner’s emotions even when they’re trying to hide them.

This is very closely related to memory and sexual instincts. It also conditions behavior relating to fear, pleasure, and aggression. It’s a sort of system which causes rapid responses — which at least in principle — are subconscious.

Sexuality, the Key Element for Emotional Intelligence?

The other animals which stand with human beings on the “emotionally intelligent animal” podium are chimpanzees and the dolphins. Both have something in common with human beings: they have sex for pleasure and reproduction. However, sexuality is not the only thing that makes them different.

The chimpanzee’s intelligence allows them to systematically communicate through symbols and signals. Plus; their intelligence allows them to perform other abilities. They’re capable of creating particular meanings through the sequential combination of various elements.

Dolphins doing tricks

They’re are also capable of teamwork. Each member of a community takes on specific duties to achieve collective goals, leaving aside individual aspirations. This aspect alone is more than enough to classify them as being the second most emotionally intelligent animal.

Dolphins: the Most Intelligent in the Water

Although the octopus has gained a good reputation – it’s classified as the most intelligent invertebrate – the dolphin takes the credit in the marine world.

Dolphins are one of the most social animals in the entire animal kingdom. They have a highly developed sound-based communication system. So much to the point some specialists won’t hesitate to say that it is a sophisticated and efficient language.