MCAT CARS Asks: Are Human and Animal Emotions Similar?


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CARS 74: MCAT CARS Asks: Are Human and Animal Emotions Similar?

Session 74

What kinds of emotions do animals feel? Are they similar to human emotions? How should we address personal biases when answering CARS questions? Let’s discuss!

As always, JackWestin joins us for another round of reading and drilling into each and every sentence of the passage. Check out their free daily CARS passages delivered right to your email inbox. Please also check out all our other medical school application resources on Meded Media.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Link to article:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_kind_of_emotions_do_animals_feel

In a Netherlands zoo, an elderly chimpanzee named Mama is weak and dying. Elderly biology professor Jan van Hooff, who has known the primate for four decades, enters Mama’s enclosure—something usually too dangerous to attempt, given the strength of chimpanzees and their capacity for violent attacks. In their final, poignant encounter, she grins and reaches for him, embraces him, and rhythmically pats the back of his head and neck in a comforting gesture that chimpanzees use to quiet a whimpering infant.

“She was letting him know not to worry,” writes Frans de Waal in his new book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.

As one of the world’s most prominent primatologists, de Waal has been observing animals for four decades now, debunking myths around the differences between animals and humans. His latest book focuses on the emotional lives of animals—showing that humans and other animals may be more alike than we think.

Like de Waal’s other books, Mama’s Last Hug is full of stories, making it highly readable, informative, and emotionally resonant. In another story he recounts, a younger female in Mama’s colony, Kuif, couldn’t produce enough milk to keep her babies alive; so de Waal taught her how to feed an adopted infant with a bottle. Kuif turned out to be a caring and protective mother, learning on her own how to remove the bottle when the baby needed to burp. Afterward, each time de Waal approached Kuif, she showered him with affection and expressions that truly seemed like gratitude.

After Mama’s death, de Waal witnessed the other chimpanzees touching, washing, anointing, and grooming her body—gestures very similar to what humans do after a death. Given such observations of chimpanzees, de Waal asserts, “Their socio-emotional lives resemble ours to such a degree that it is unclear where to draw the line.”

Non-primate animals show emotions, too

While de Waal begins his observations with chimpanzees, he also presents fascinating glimpses of the emotional lives of other animals. For example, Asian elephants wrap their trunks around each other as an expression of consolation. Even rodents, once thought to be unaffected by emotions and devoid of facial expressions, have been found to “express anguish through narrowed eyes, flattened ears, and swollen cheeks.” They also have facial expressions for pleasure, and they recognize these states in other rats. As for horses, De Waal notes that their faces are “about as expressive as those of the primates.”

[03:22] Comparing CARS and SAT Verbal Tests

'There's no connection there. The only connection is that they're both standardized tests.'Click To Tweet

If you’re not generally good at standardized tests, you’re going to have a harder time with the MCAT. This is a fair conclusion to make. But just because you rocked the verbal or reading section of SATs doesn’t mean you’re going to rock or do great on the CARS section of the MCAT.

The CARS section is way harder, way more conceptual. SAT is focused on vocab words, grammar. With CARS, they throw in passages that have no grammar.

The biggest difference between CARS and the SAT is that one is more conceptual and based on more ideas; whereas the SAT is more than just learning how to do things the right way. Nonetheless, they’re both text-based so you have to read. If you don’t like to read passages for the SAT, you’re not going to like reading CARS passages. That’s for sure.

But if you didn’t do so well on the SAT doesn’t mean you won’t do well on the MCAT. And just because you did well on the SAT doesn’t mean you’re going to perform very high on the MCAT. It’s about patience and preparation. 

[07:01] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

In a Netherlands zoo, an elderly chimpanzee named Mama is weak and dying.

Jack says:

The author starts with talking about a dying chimpanzee.

[07:15] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

Elderly biology professor Jan van Hooff, who has known the primate for four decades, enters Mama’s enclosure—something usually too dangerous to attempt, given the strength of chimpanzees and their capacity for violent attacks.

Jack says:

So we have a dying chimpanzee and an old biology professor who knows the primate and entering the cage.

[07:40] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

In their final, poignant encounter, she grins and reaches for him, embraces him, and rhythmically pats the back of his head and neck in a comforting gesture that chimpanzees use to quiet a whimpering infant.

Jack says:

Just picture the dying chimpanzee and the human it’s known for four decades is kind of sharing their final embrace. Students will try to reread the paragraph because they want to get all the details but just go with the flow. They’re probably never going to ask questions about those. This is more of a scene-setter. They’re setting up the scene for something more important.

[08:47] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

“She was letting him know not to worry,” writes Frans de Waal in his new book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.

Jack says:

We’re given a book of where this story came from and what the embrace meant. And the title of the books tells a lot about what’s going on here. The book can have many angles or the article can have many angles. We don’t know which part of the book they’re really referring to. Usually, the title is the main part of the book but that doesn’t have to be the case when they just extract the passage from the book. 

“Stay away from reading the titles. It could potentially hurt you as much as it can help. Just read the passage and understand what the passage is saying.” Click To Tweet

The actual date of publication can give you some clues as to how difficult it is or the style of writing so that you can anticipate a harder passage. Usually, the harder ones are in the early 20th century. This is something to take into account but even that can be a little bit excessive.

[10:19] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

As one of the world’s most prominent primatologists, de Waal has been observing animals for four decades now, debunking myths around the differences between animals and humans.

Jack says:

The author of the book is giving a back story setting him up as an expert.

[10:38] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

His latest book focuses on the emotional lives of animals—showing that humans and other animals may be more alike than we think.

Jack says:

The book is highlighting how humans and other animals are more alike than different, at least on the emotional side.

[11:35] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

Like de Waal’s other books, Mama’s Last Hug is full of stories, making it highly readable, informative, and emotionally resonant.

Jack says:

We’re getting an author’s perspective on what makes a highly readable book

[11:53] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

In another story he recounts, a younger female in Mama’s colony, Kuif, couldn’t produce enough milk to keep her babies alive; so de Waal taught her how to feed an adopted infant with a bottle.

Jack says:

More stories from the book.

[12:11] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

Kuif turned out to be a caring and protective mother, learning on her own how to remove the bottle when the baby needed to burp.

Jack says:

Picture all this stuff.

[12:24] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

Afterward, each time de Waal approached Kuif, she showered him with affection and expressions that truly seemed like gratitude.

Jack says:

The author says these animals can really show gratitude and affection. It’s another example of emotion.

[12:51] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

After Mama’s death, de Waal witnessed the other chimpanzees touching, washing, anointing, and grooming her body—gestures very similar to what humans do after a death.

Jack says:

It’s a story of death of the animals and their connection to humans.

[13:08] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

Given such observations of chimpanzees, de Waal asserts, “Their socio-emotional lives resemble ours to such a degree that it is unclear where to draw the line.”

Jack says:

From a socio-emotional perspective, it sounds that de Waal is saying they’re the same as us. You may have a bias towards chimpanzees or whatever animal, and if you don’t stick to what they said, you may mess up on their questions. From the perspective of this person who wrote the book, you have to know that they’re pretty much equal.

[14:40] Side Note: How to Separate Your Own Emotions and Opinions From the Author’s Points

For those students who may have really strong religious beliefs and practices where understanding things like evolution is hard for them. This is why you really need to practice CARS. You may not know how to separate them but really care about what the author says. It’s about acknowledging that you could do this. If you’re really dissecting questions and really reviewing them, you will start noticing that you’re doing this.

'Once you make enough mistakes, you realize that you have to be objective when you answer questions.' Click To Tweet

It’s okay to debate with the author’s ideas. But if you’re really emotional about this topic, whether you hate or really enjoy it, it becomes very hard to separate your feelings from the author’s perspectives. And you’re just going to cast your own opinions on any every question you get asked. It comes down to acknowledging that you have this problem.

Over time, once you do enough questions and once you make enough mistakes, you will get into a habit of separating yourself from the author’s points. You can still debate the author. This means that when you read this, you ask yourself if you agree with what the author is saying. But try not to misinterpret the author.

'Just because you don't like what the author is saying doesn't mean you have to change what the author is saying.'Click To Tweet

[18:30] Paragraph 6, Sentence 1

While de Waal begins his observations with chimpanzees, he also presents fascinating glimpses of the emotional lives of other animals.

Jack says:

The author is pointing out that de Waal also talks about other animals and not just chimpanzees.

[18:45] Paragraph 6, Sentence 2

For example, Asian elephants wrap their trunks around each other as an expression of consolation.

Jack says:

Other animals also have other forms of expression.

[19:31] Paragraph 6, Sentence 3

Even rodents, once thought to be unaffected by emotions and devoid of facial expressions, have been found to “express anguish through narrowed eyes, flattened ears, and swollen cheeks.”

Jack says:

Animals are apparently emotional beings. They’re basically painting a picture of what emotion looks like. To the author, this is how they’ve decided to interpret emotion.

[20:11] Paragraph 6, Sentence 4

They also have facial expressions for pleasure, and they recognize these states in other rats.

Jack says:

So these rats have other emotions aside from anger.

[20:26] Paragraph 6, Sentence 5

As for horses, De Waal notes that their faces are “about as expressive as those of the primates.”

Jack says:

The last paragraph is just highlighting that not just primates but a wide variety of animals can express emotion.

[21:00] The Main Idea

The main idea of this passage is that animals have emotions similar to ours. Students may not be seeing passages as easy as this one. But this will help you by visualizing the scenery.

'Even harder passages need to be visualized and need to be understood at this level. At least understand where the author's headed.'Click To Tweet

Links:

Meded Media

JackWestin

Link to article:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_kind_of_emotions_do_animals_feel

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