General Question

zookeeny's avatar

Do spiders feel emotions? Do they feel pain? and other questions...

Asked by zookeeny (888points) January 28th, 2010

If they dont then why do they run and freeze and try to survive? Wouldnt they have to feel some drive of desire to make them want to survive? Surely instinct to survive comes with some kind of emotional response and then does that lead to a spider having thoughts? He thinks I like life this way I want to live and I do this and that and if I feel threatend I try to surive so I and my babies can survive to live in this glourious world of web making and flies etc.

They use their senses to detect things like how to not walk off the end of a tree branch etc and to run away from a human foot that is approaching so something must change from general feeling of spider contentment to arrrrr run must ruuuuuun!!!

Just had to ask as I have been thinking about it all day. One of those chewy thoughts that keep pestering you for an answer. So here I am pestering you for an answer…. or at least your thoughts on the matter…. I guess there is no answer…yet. As I write this there might be a couple of spiders yelling at me YES YES we can feel pain why wont they listen to us we spend all day screaming at you and all you do is ignore us then scream or try to kill us the rest of the time. If the is a spider reading this please move out of my house.


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69 Answers

FlutherMe's avatar

They simply process environmental stimuli. A sea sponge reacts when you mess with it. Does it feel “pain” too?

Their brains lack the complex structures needed to process emotion. They are VERY basic animals

bigboss's avatar

peter parker once said “my spider sense is tingling” i think they feel a tingly sensation.

ninjacolin's avatar

They’re like you but less complex in some ways and more complex in others.

No one has ever felt what it’s like to be a spider so no one can say whether or not they have emotions. However, they react to “danger” in the same way that we do only limited to the reactions available to their bodies’ physique. Also, their brains are limited to their brains’ physique. It’s all a little different than ours but we don’t really have much reason to think they are completely unlike us.

We are the same in this way: Our actions and reactions are limited to our bodies’ physique. For example, we can’t spin a web from our buts and jump of a building if it’s on fire, we just have to wait on the roof for help. Also, we’re limited to our Brains’ physique, which doesn’t allow us to telepathically summon assistance but, thankfully allows us to call for help using our complex cell phones.

Still, just like a spider, we do what we can with what we’re given.

YARNLADY's avatar

Ewww, no. There is no brain to “feel” anything.

Ruallreb8ters's avatar

As I see it, if you fell like you should do someting than you already have… so if it’s a spider and you feel like you need to kill it, do, cause its already dead

ETpro's avatar

@zookeeny Ha! What were you smoking when this question came to mind?

Truth be told, we don’t know how it “feels” to be a spider. @ninjacolin is right about that. I would guess that all like forms evolved enough to hoave a fight-or-fligh response to threats “feel” fear at some level.

Thinking is another matter. In order to think about how you feel about something, you first must realize that “you” exist separate of the program you are executing. Asking what a spider thinks in terms of “I want to survive.” is like asking what your computer thinks when you boot it up. It doesn’t think in that way. It simply executes its program.

Humans are the only animals on earth to have crossed the threshold of self awareness. We are the only life form to date who can say, “I think, therefore I am.” and the only one to have any idea what that might mean.

nikipedia's avatar

We know from studying humans that the experience of fear and anxiety involves brain regions that are unique to higher-order animals (the limbic system and prefrontal cortex), and pain requires nerves called nociceptors.

Spiders don’t have any of this equipment. Their brains are a pretty simple system made out of a couple nerves and ganglia.

So I think it’s reasonable to conclude that spiders probably don’t experience pain or fear, or at least they don’t experience it the way we do.

Instincts to survive aren’t necessarily linked to fear and pain in other animals just because they are in us. Consider plants, for instance. They grow toward sunlight, water, and nutrients, but I don’t think anyone would argue that these are intentional processes guided by a desire to stay alive or a fear of pain/death.

ETpro's avatar

@nikipedia We don’t know from studying human brains that there is no other way for a neural network to experience fear or pain than the one our brains use. We can assume that other animals that have similar brain structures to ours might use them for similar types of processing, but that is not evidence proving there are no other ways for animals to accomplish the same thing.

A fight-or-flight response is a very different thing from plants growing toward the sun for survuival. And spiders definitely do exhibit the fight-or-flight reaction when threatened.

nikipedia's avatar

@ETpro: I agree that we can’t know for sure that they don’t have another system, but the most reasonable and parsimonious conclusion based on our available data is that they simply don’t have the subjective experiences of pain and fear. We have no evidence whatsoever of a secondary system existing in any species; instead we have a great deal of evidence showing that our system evolved from our phylogenetic ancestors. It strikes me as extraordinarily unlikely that a spider, with radically different equipment from ours, generates an identical subjective experience. It strikes me as even more extraordinarily unlikely that spiders would evolve pain and fear, and then we would go to all the trouble of evolving a completely different system when, if what you’re saying is true, our ancestors would have had a perfectly good system already.

So like everything else in science, we can’t prove that spiders don’t feel these things, but we can make a judgment about what seems most likely.

And I don’t think a fight-or-flight response is qualitatively different from a plant’s efforts to stay alive. They both involve responding to the environment in order to stay alive.

ucme's avatar

Only when on WEBsites such as arachnaphobia: face your fears. They tend to feel a slight twinge of paranoia when they’re misunderstood, I imagine.

ninjacolin's avatar

This is a great question.. i would’ve never guessed people had these opinions about spiders. I’m blown away really.. I guess my opinions must seem strange too. ha!

@ETpro said: “Humans are the only animals on earth to have crossed the threshold of self awareness.”

uh.. again, since no one has ever been a spider, no one knows whether they are self-aware or not. i hate that self-aware crap anyway. no one’s self aware. that’s a foolish idea. we’re just robots who act as if we are self-aware. It’s all a part of the programming.

i agree with you, nikipedia, we can take a pretty close guess based on available evidence, but.. self-awareness isn’t anything more special than being able to acknowledge yourself. Spiders, acknowledge themselves just fine. They don’t feed others, they feed themselves. They don’t spin their neighbor’s web’s they spin their own. They take care of self. They run to protect themselves, not your foot! They know their left arm from their right arm otherwise they wouldn’t be able to control them.

Responding to the environment is the nature of life itself. Lifeforms respond in different ways to their environment, but they’re all the same in that they can’t help but respond based on the limitations of their individual abilities to sense, reason, and react.

daemonelson's avatar

Spiders that run away live and may reproduce. Spiders that don’t do this tend to die.

Computers don’t generally feel emotions, however they can react in a particular way to certain stimuli.

@nikipedia /agree

Trillian's avatar

AS I understand it, the requirements for sentience are: means of data input, means of data storage, means of data retrieval, manipulation and processing, capacity to make data driven decisions, means of data output. Ok, by this definition, spiders lack the capacity for sentience. A spider cannot act in a different way than it is programmed to act, as in instinct. A spider cannot say “Hmmm, instead of a web, I think I’ll spin a sarong.” A species or a particular genus could, I believe, alter web design or hunting methods over generations, that’s Darwinian.
Orcas and other cetaceans have, perhaps, the capacity for sentience. They can learn, adapt what they learn to change hunting strategies, and teach others in their pods. This, I believe, is a strong argument for at least the capacity for sentience. I can’t say I know enough about it to argue the case.
Arachnids, not so much.

Harp's avatar

@nikipedia Explain this , Miss Smartypants

ETpro's avatar

@nikipedia Sure the fight-or-flight response is different from a plant growing toward the sun. The plant makes no decision about whether to embrace of reject the sun. It simply follows a set program. Fight-or-flight involves two possible responses to what may be the same stimulus. Among organisms that exhibit this response, it’s hard to second guess which they may use in a given circumstance. Two individual members of the same species may react differently to the same perceived threat. The same individual may even react differently at different times to the same threat.

If you prod at a spider with a stick, the insect may stand and bare its fangs initially, ready to kill the threatening stick or at least scare it away. Prod again, and let the insect try to bite the stick and realize it is not intimidated in any way, or harmed by the attack, and the spider will likely decide retreat is a better survival strategy. I have never seen any plant do anything like make a decision them alter course based on that decision.

@ninjacolin I like to describe self awareness as the ability to realize we are executing a program, then decide we don’t have to keep running that program, step outside it, and write a new one that takes us in a new direction to achieve something we (hopefully) prefer. If we accept that, then Orcas and some other higher animals just learning to use tools and teach new skills may be on the cusp of acquiring this ability.

ninjacolin's avatar

but @ETpro, we don’t have that ability.
like a plant or even like a rock, all we can do at any single moment of our existence is that one set of things that is possible for us to do. we can’t do anything else.

it might be that we must continue on one course or it might be that we must change course. either way, we are only doing what our beliefs in that moment force us to.

ETpro's avatar

Let’s just agree to disagree on that. The arguments for fatalism or determinism lead down a path that is beyond the reach of reason. One who embraces such philosophy can no more be convinced they are in error than a religious fundamentalist convinced the earth isn’t 6,000 years old. Nor can those who believe in free will prove their case. It’s a debate best left to college sophomores with the energy for the useless task.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

The spider on Charlotte’s Web did. lol

ninjacolin's avatar

It’s self-evident and undeniable (that is to say, at this moment you have no free will but to recognize…) that we disagree. It’s not something we have to try to agree on, we can’t help but agree that that is the case. See? It’s pretty easy to prove determinism logically, @ETpro. It takes a leap of faith to believe in free will over physics and the natural causal order.

Okay, we disagree on that. But we’ll have to that my belief in validity of determinism determines the fact that your definition ‘self-awareness’ is logically inconsistent.

ninjacolin's avatar

sorry, my dyslexia’s really been kicking in lately. (i would’ve typed better if i could) edit: “we’ll have to note that my belief in the validity of determinism determines the fact that your definition of ‘self-awareness’ is logically inconsistent in my worldview.”

nikipedia's avatar

@ETpro: The “fight-or-flight response” doesn’t refer to a decision the animal makes. It refers to a biological system that is prepared to either attack or flee. So I would argue that animals engaging in this response do not show any evidence of decision-making, volition, or the c-word.

@Harp: Your argument is impenetrable. Too bad SHE’S DEAD! <—-spoiler!

ninjacolin's avatar

“I would argue that animals engaging in this response do not show any evidence of decision-making, volition, or the [consciousness].”

That doesn’t seem to make sense, @nikipedia. How does the animal come to act on one biological system response (flight) or the other (fight) without somehow consciously “decision-making” between the two?

ETpro's avatar

@nikipedia I think @ninjacolin has a valid question. Is the response determined by quantum mechanics? Watching animals exhibit the fight-or-flight response, it seems to me likely that they do in some way decide when fighting is the best course and when running away is better. They do have a drive telling them they are in danger and should do something. They have 2 options. They sometimes opt for one, and other times opt for the other. What determines which they opt for?

zookeeny's avatar

I would just like to report that I might have killed a spider today (or terrorised it). I was hanging my washing out and one was on a peg I flicked it off and it fell 100s of meters to the ground (from a spiders perspecive it would have seemed like 100s of metres) I do not know if it survived the drop. I did not hear a scream. RIP spider I hope you enjoyed your final bungie jump.

fathippo's avatar

I don’t know, because I guess, they could know the very meaning to existence and could know everything about the uni/multiverse, but we just think, ‘damn spider >=|’ and crush them thinking we’re more advanced. But maybe they are holding back and observing us so they can bring on the downfall of mankind. I always thought spiders looked kinda ominous and suspicious the way they just stand/ hang there…. =/ hmm…

You should probably just ignore me… =)

talljasperman's avatar

I once had a spider attack me and give chase….they think…but It failed to stop when I acquired a size 15 shoe…splat city

Just_Justine's avatar

I got undressed in front of a spider once, it ran and sulked in the corner of the room for days. One day it even pretended it was dead, but I was far cleverer than him and knew he was pretending to be dead. I do that sometimes when people upset me. I also run and freeze when I see people I don’t like. Anyway one day he and I got chatting. He explained that he ran because his last lover was after him. I say why?? He said because she is gonna eat me right. I thought about it a lot then said “Yeah it’s bit like divorce in a way?”

I realised we had a lot in common!

OK, sorry couldn’t resist that ! They operate on stimulus and instinct, light and shadow. Although once my gran whacked a spider off her bed with a newspaper. When she got into bed and turned off the light it came back and attacked her. By running up her back to her hand which was flung over her shoulder and bit her. It was a big one too. So there, it obviously had short term memory (by having the shits and hatching a plan). I never forgot that story and cannot explain it. (Unless it was going on instinct again forgot it got whacked and made the same mistake twice). But still got to bite her.

ETpro's avatar

I ran across this, which suggests that animals down to the level of fish do experience pain. Of course, it’s a long way from a fish to a spider, but nature seems to have equiped most creatures capable of moving about with systems to sense damage and avoid further damage.

stardust's avatar

_hi I’m a spider. My name is busy-fingers. It’s so nice to hear what all of you humanoids have to say about me & my clan. We like to study you guys too. See, we already have so much in common. Well, except when you don’t eat your babies. I’m one of the gals that’s gone down that road. PTSD – that’s where that one got me.
Good luck with your research egg’s_

stardust's avatar

How silly of me, I forgot to let you know that soon you’re gonna be the small ones hiding under rocks & debris & we’ll be the giant walking, talking, brains of the operation. I believe you made a film about it at one stage. Watch out humanoids. If I’m capable of eating babies, well you can gather the rest…

snowberry's avatar

I’m so sorry I missed this question when it came up. Once my husband brought me a tarantula home for a pet (yes, I know he’s strange, but I love him, and I really do like bugs). He found it on the road while he was traveling, and put it in an empty coffee cup and popped the lid back on. It was a big burly spider, and apparently, the two of them had a fight over whether or not the lid would stay on or not.

I put it in a homemade cage made out of wire screening and 1” by 1” wooden sticks, but it was rickety, and eventually fell apart, so then we put it in a glass fish bowl.

Apparently many of the larger spiders do actually emit little squeaks, and also are sensitive to noise. Obviously this one was, because when we put it in the fish bowl, we could hear the magnified squeaks it made. It stopped eating altogether, and began to waste away. It literally was scaring itself to death.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money to buy another cage of the type to keep it, or to the expense of feeding it (I had to make a 30 minute drive one-way to a pet store to get live crickets for it). My only other option was to let it go, which I did. But by this time, it was so thin, it’s unlikely it survived the winter.

We named it Chainsaw.

Just_Justine's avatar

@snowberry you know I am terrified of spiders to such a point, but your story was so sad, I feel like you should have called it lassie! that is just so sad :(

snowberry's avatar

@Just Justine Actually we’ve had a lot of pet spiders, and other pets as well. Some of our favorites were the big spiders.

Coloma's avatar

Years ago I came across a huge black widow and her giant egg sack in my garage.

Blasted her with Raid and she staggered down and wrapped herself around her egg sack. Broke my heart!

Instinct sure..but….made me feel like crap, I have never killed a spider, or anything that I can avoid ( sans a few billion ants in my house on occasion. )

I don’t think that just because I am human that I have a momopoly over all other living things.

anoop66's avatar

The tags you used were funny : spiderboy, spiderwoman :)

cornbird's avatar

yea they do. Every living thing does.

YARNLADY's avatar

@cornbird Does that include celery and roses when you cut them off the stem to put in a vase?

cornbird's avatar

I believe that they feel pain too, yea. I suppose… they are living.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Coloma aw, that’s sad. I don’t think instincts are properly understood. Instinctual behavior isn’t unloving, unreal, or anything less than what you do.

That spider mommy was worried about her eggs, that’s why she went to them. To protect them. It’s just like a mother bear angrily protecting her cubs. It’s just like a human mother pulling her baby carriage back away from a speeding car.

Why would we think their behavior is any less than ours? It’s exactly the same real feelings that motivate them to act.

Coloma's avatar


I agree.

Speaking of more sadness…last night I flipped off the cover on my hot tub which was cookin’ and a little tree frog ( they like to hang out under the flaps where it’s warm and dark ) launched into the bubbling hot water…by the time I tried to grab the skimmer it was too late, he sunk in his boiling watery grave. Boo hoo..:-(

ninjacolin's avatar

i just wanted to add: If they didn’t feel anything, they wouldn’t react at all. What else would move them to act in protective ways besides a feeling to protect?

MaryW's avatar

Life means more than just instinct and reaction. Machines have that much.

So I kill them fast if they are in the people areas. We have many poisonious spiders here. I spray around entry points. I wear gloves when cleaning.
I kill them fast because I do not want them to suffer. I just do not want to either. It’s me or them.
Brown recluse and Wolf spider and Black widow. I have had several B Recluse bites ( in boot’s and jackets as in behind things in the garage) and the flesh rots. Not nice. So I had to get educated and fight back.

MissA's avatar

I try to remind myself that spiders are an integral part of the food chain. I discourage them to share my personal space…and, I attempt to leave their favorite spots alone.

The practical side of me knows that if the spiders weren’t here…a lot of insects that I would not enjoy cohabitating with, WOULD be.

There’s a place for all of us.

Coloma's avatar


Well said…forgot who sad ( Ghandi?) that the gretaness of a nation can be determined by the way it treats it’s animals.

Killing anything just because you can, because you are bigger, stronger, ‘smarter or perceive it’s right to life as being something you get to determine, is reflective of a cosmic arrogance.

MissA's avatar

@Coloma…don’t you wish OUR leaders would take that approach?

Coloma's avatar


Yes. Funny…I got lamblasted last night by another participant for taking the ‘people first, things second’ approach to a question about whether an adult woman whose ‘artist’ father documented the development of her sexual organs on film as a child should have the right to what happens to that material.

It’s just plain scary how some are able to justify the worst abuses as okay.

MissA's avatar

@Coloma I missed that one…but, something to think about. hmmm.

Telos's avatar

-I know, I know… old thread, but extremely interesting.

First off, @nikipedia: There is no reason to believe that an organ couldn’t evolve with the ability to provide a similar subjective experience of emotion as that which humans feel.

Just as Bee’s wings came from a completely different evolutionary path than bird’s wings, yet serve a similar purpose. There are countless examples of this in nature.

In fact, if the feeling is of high practical value to the survival of the organism, it is very likely an organ to provide it would evolve. I’d say fear, love and anger are all of reasonably high survival value for a spider. And not beyond the scope of their current evolutionary capacity (if you were thinking that the ability to THINK would also be useful!).

Obviously if an organism is oblivious to reality, with no choices (or even very slow pseudo-choices like in a plant growing towards the sun) to make within it, emotions would not increase it’s chances of survival. I think the fact that spiders need to make rapid choices, even if they are simple programs like fight-or-flight, is strong evidence of the possibility of emotion.

In my current reasoning, spiders probably have a very sensory-rich ego experience which likely has a form of emotional spectrum roughly as similar to ours as their other basic functions like site or hearing. Although with less intelligence than an average cellphone.

The ups and downs of their experience are of course beyond our ability to accurately imagine, although perhaps not beyond our ability to relate to and empathize with.

Spiders on Drugs

Coloma's avatar


Haha..I have seen that before!

dc10's avatar

Well this is an interesting debate really. See I have had quite a lot of encounters with spiders over the years. There have been some that seem to like jumping up and down the wall as my music is playing when im composing and it seems to like the music lol There was this one time I was sitting on the sofa and I wasnt even moving at all, and this spider was on the floor about half a metre away just standing under the table looking at me, which it did say for about half an hour. Now I would have to say that strongly suggests that it is not a flight or fight response. You see if I was a posing a threat to that spider it would either run off very quickly or stand there briefly and then run off. The thing is it literally watched me and had its eyes hooked on me for about half an hour. Now you try and explain that to me, cuz im stumped to find any answer to it. I think we ourselves as a species tend to think we know more than we do when actually, really we dont have a damn clue when the truth is told. Now secondly its interesting, you say about humans protecting their children and the same with other animals and spiders as an instinct, however in reality not all humans protect their children instinctivley , some abuse, harm and kill their children, and it is exactly the same in nature wether its spiders, lions, or humans etc you’re talking about. I think firstly we want to actually question ourselves and ask what is instinct actually, because when you look more closely going by truth along with facts it is rather obvious (at least to me) that all our instincts are not quite the same, are they?? If so, why doesnt every single parentinstinctivley protect their children. Yes they should, but note the word Should, it doesnt mean they all do does it?? Factually we also all know it is not the case that they all do either. Going by this knowledge of fact it should surely conclude to another fact , one of which being that we cant even begin to properly answer our own species actions on this matter (aside the most used supposed correct answer,with oh well not everyones wired right!) Those people have a brain just like me and you, they are humans, but really their instincts must very much differer from ours within our own species and like us humans, some of us actually care and some of us actually dont, so why really should it be any different for a spider, or any other animal going on that point? I personally think that like people they are misunderstood and like some people are very smart and not ever given that credit for it either. You know the question I ask myself really is what makes us humans too mucn disimilar to bacteria!?!

dc10's avatar

so really dont confuse instinct with morals! now ask yourself animals have them?!

dc10's avatar

The thing is there is no solid answer to life, because it is down to individuals

dc10's avatar

and you dont really have to be a scientist to figuire that shit out, still, not too bad a reply from a arachnaphobe lol I just chose to face my fear and observe the spider and i can only really gather that it was doing just exactly the same with me for all intense and purposes.

dc10's avatar

being that im an arachnaphobe also would bare id have some sort of flight or fight response, but as I chose to face my fear it was not that. Now regardless of how crazy people may think this sounds i really believe that it was that particular spiders choice to do the same as I did I think it was trying to make me understand where it was coming from. In all the times I have encountered several spiders, very much to my total dislike, I actually found that a plesent experience because for that half an hour it really felt like we had something in common and I think yes they do have emotions though their body structure is very different to ours it doesnt mean that they’re not able to feel at all. I beleive everything living has emotions regardless of what those emotions are

snowberry's avatar

@dc10 It’s possible that the spider under your table was asleep. They can’t close their eyes, so you’ll never know. Also, spiders are focused on stuff much closer and smaller than big ol’ you sitting on the couch. Their sole purpose for living is to stay alive and get big enough to reproduce. They are motivated by food, and threat, not philosophical ruminations of anything in particular. Now, it might be that the spider on your wall was reacting to the vibrations in your music, but who knows?

Pandora's avatar

I don’t know about feelings but I do know they are territorial. Once saw to garden spiders wrestle for hours. It was an interesting fight. One would try to flip itself onto the other ones back. But with so many legs and the fact that they were equal in size, it was hard to determine who ended up being the victor. I watched the first hour with popcorn. Then I would check back every couple of minutes until I just didn’t care anymore. Eventually one was dead but I don’t know who won. :(

yankeetooter's avatar

I think as humans that we often try to project our thoughts and feelings on to other animals. While I do think that smarter animals do feel sadness, loneliness, happiness, etc., I’m not sure all animals do. Spiders on the wall may have been vibrating to your loud music @dc10. I doubt they were sitting there thinking, “Ooh, I love this song!” I think we deal with our feelings towards such creepy crawlies by giving them human thoughts and feelings, and it can be pretty amusing.

My mom has had a run of wolf spiders in her house this week. It was on three different days, and they all came in by the front door. When I came over to mow her lawn on Friday, she told me about the different times she had had them come in…I told her that when I went outside, I was going to check by the front door to see if they were all hovering around the door, waiting to run in, and saying to each other, “Wait for it…wait for it.”

Although the above may place a funny picture in our minds, I doubt very seriously that the spiders were doing that…at least I hope not!

GabrielsLamb's avatar

I never stick around long enough to ask. Hmmm, Maybe I should?

But everything with a central nervous system feels pain. I think in the case of spiders however, not many survive to experience it. It’s like a safe being dropped on you from 200 feet I imagine it is instantanious and therefore not painful.

“Spiders have an alimentary canal (yellow), a blood vascular system (red), a breathing system (orange), a nervous system (blue), an excretion system (green).”

snowberry's avatar

@GabrielsLamb Red, blue, green, yellow. How convenient and helpful! But to find all the parts, I’d have to have a goliath bird eating spider, dinner plate size. Do you have one?

BongaFish's avatar

The answer to your question is very simply a black and white No. Arthropods and insects are not like little less-complex people. Their brains entirely lack the systems necessary for actual thinking. Everything they do is 100% impulsive. Let’s take the definition of pain for instance. Just because a creature has a nervous system does not mean it’s nervous system includes pain receptors. Bugs can sense pressure and contact, but they lack what you call nocisensors. They can’t sense sharpness, heat, any of that painful stuff. Example: grab an insect gently, and it struggles like there’s no tomorrow. But pluck its leg off or chop off half its body, leave it alone, and it’ll mosey on along its way like it’s no big deal that it’s using its busted appendage or dragging its entrails behind itself. Doesn’t care. Doesn’t panick. A mammal would react oppositely. Severely injured, it would lie still, petrified with pain, shock, and the fear of further hurting itself.

As for emotions, they are equally numb. They’re programmed to eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, mate, and avoid physical endangerment. None of these things are emotion-driven or based off any form of decision-making cognititive process. Simple answer, insects/arthropods/tiny-creatures ARE NOT SELF-AWARE. As much as we like to imagine they may have some sort of personality, and it’s considered shallow to judge a living thing’s place in the world, bugs really are nature’s little robots, and are as individually insignficant as a speck of dirt. It’s the darned truth. There’s no philosophy about it.

ETpro's avatar

@BongaFish Great Answer, and welcome to Fluther.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fear not, as we speak there is some government agency spending millions to 100s of millions of our tax dollars trying to get to the bottom of your very question. It is a shame they won’t find out even though it might keep a bunch of scientist employed while they flush the cash down the toilet.

ETpro's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Understanding the steps toward true cognition and self awareness, and how self awareness develops is hardly a waste of resources. And since you report they are spending millions or hundreds of millions, I take it you have no more idea what the funding for this project is than you have a grasp of its importance.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ Understanding the steps toward true cognition and self awareness, and how self awareness develops is hardly a waste of resources.
At the end of millions upon millions spent, what would it benefit to understand that a beagle, spider, hamster, or what have you has awareness that it exist? Or that it will someday get old and die even if it escapes man or other predators trying to eat it? Does it mean it will also develop or has greed, indifference, lust, etc. as we do but we just have not figured out how they do it? Just how will that be a game changer to the greater issues of life for humans?

vana200's avatar

Have you ever looked straight into a spider’s eye? I assure you that if you have, this is not even a question, you can obviously see the emotion in their adorable eyes, but for those of you that haven’t, I would like to point out that pet spiders always know their humans, and learn to recognize and love their humans. A pet spider almost never bites it owner, even if it generally bites other people.

snowberry's avatar

Hmmm, I doubt that @vana200. I’m a big spider fan, but they don’t think like we do. They can become accustomed to being handled, but they aren’t wired to recognize us. They are wired to stay alive and get big enough to reproduce. Staying alive long enough to reproduce seems to be their focus, not making friends with humans.

And some spiders are just too aggressive and poisonous to handle regardless who the owner is.

MrGrimm888's avatar

So. If spiders are just following their ‘program.’ Are we as well? Why would we be so different than every other organism on our planet? Perhaps we have an illusion of choice. But to what end if we’re all just following ‘program?’ We’d be like a pre-scripted movie. That’s boring and weird right?

Amara1704's avatar

I don’t know about emotions or pain, but at least some can think. There have been experiments done where jumping spiders learn to navigate mazes. And I’ve had a lot of spiders (mostly orb weavers) that I’ve captured to observe play dead to get me to release them. They’ll curl up, and if you shake the jar they uncurl but after a few tries they learn to stay curled up so you think they’re really dead, and the second you dump them out they get up and run away. Some do it on principle, some do it only if they’re displeased with the amount of food you’re giving them, but they are capable of recognising that another sentient being is holding them captive, and theorising that it would lose interest if they appear to no longer be alive. This also implies they might understand death.

tonict's avatar

I know what scientific data says, but I choose to believe that all living things have emotion on some level and all have the capacity to love. I will soon be getting a pet tarantula and I will love her I’m sure, as I will believe she loves me as well.

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