Foredrag med Vin & Videnskab

Dr. Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research and is one of the world’s most acclaimed primatologists. Besides having had his research published in leading scientific journals such as Science and Nature he is known for his numerous popular books that have been translated into more than 20 languages. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today.

His research focuses on the social behaviour and intelligence of chimpanzees and other primates, and how they are in many ways similar to us. He talks about concepts such as primate culture, emotions, empathy, politics and morality. 

Wine & Science has invited Frans de Waal to Copenhagen to give an exclusive talk about the topic of his new book, Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves (2019).

Host of the evening will be Peter Kjærgaard, Professor of Evolutionary History and Museum Director at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

A glass of wine will be served during the intermission (included in the price).      

NOTE: The talk will be in English.


Mama’s last hug: Animal and human emotions

This lecture's title pays homage to Mama, the alpha female of a famous chimpanzee colony on a forested island at Burgers Zoo, the Netherlands. Mama died at the age of 59. Her last hug with Professor Jan van Hooff went viral on the Internet. Frans de Waal will discuss their encounter and review evidence for animal emotions, starting with primate facial expressions. These expressions are sometimes described as grimaces - misled by the apes in Hollywood movies, who are trained to pull weird faces - but primates have an incredible variety of expressions that are as meaningful to them as our own expressions are to us. They  laugh when tickled, pout when disappointed, and stare with a frown when angry. Charles Darwin concluded long ago that if apes use expressions similar to ours under similar circumstances, the underlying emotions are probably similar, too.

Feelings behind emotions are harder to know, however. In humans, we often get our information from language, a somewhat questionable source. With animals we don’t have this luxury, hence feelings remain inaccessible. But the emotions themselves are visible and measurable as they are expressed in the body and lead to behavioral changes. Animal emotions have become a respectable topic of study.

All of our emotions can be found one way or another in other species. The whole idea that there is just a handful of “basic” or “primary” emotions (fear, anger, joy), and that all other emotions (jealousy, guilt, love, hope) are uniquely human doesn’t make sense. Emotions are like organs. We possess not a single organ that is unique to us. Similarly, although we have emotions that go deeper or are more varied than in other species, none of them is entirely new. Frans de Waal will discuss empathy and disgust as examples.


DR. FRANS B. M. DE WAAL is a Dutch/American biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982), he compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His popular books - translated into 20+ languages - have made him one of the world's most visible primatologists. De Waal is C. H. Candler Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center, in Atlanta, Georgia.