A sad raven bums out its friends

Image of a large black bird.

Enlarge / Does he look
happy or sad to you? (credit:
US Fish and Wildlife

As social creatures, we subconsciously match moods with those
around us—and not just when a cranky supervisor darkens your day
(Editor’s Note: Is it something I said?). The scientific term for
the spread of feelings is “emotional contagion,” a term that
may feel particularly appropriate when it comes to grumpiness. But
as is so often the case with human psychology, this very human
behavior does not appear to be unique to our species.

Studying emotions and their contagious nature in other animals
can be tricky. Relying on outward displays runs the risk of
conflating a simple emotion with some overt rowdiness that makes it
visible. Getting at that underlying emotion requires understanding
how critters act in varying moods. A team led by the University of
Vienna’s Jessie Adriaense
tried to do that with ravens by designing a test to reveal whether
they were feeling optimistic.

Emotional control

The first goal of the experiment was to induce a positive or
negative emotional state in a raven. To do so, the raven was shown
a pair of food items: dog kibbles (a highly rated treat) and some
raw carrot (a hard pass). One of the food items would then be taken
away. When the tasty treat remained in view, the raven should be
enthused; it responded by walking up to that side of the cage and
focusing its attention on the snack. When the carrot was left, the
bird gave it a dominantly left-side side-eye (the left eye and
right brain hemisphere are linked to negative stimuli) and
scratched at the ground in frustration.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
A sad raven bums out its friends