Olympic athletes do it, lovers do it, and now we know even Hermit Crabs do it. What is it they all do? Emotional projection, i.e. extending a sense-of-self beyond the limits of their body.
A flexible body image is required by animals if they are to adapt to body changes and move effectively within a structurally complex environment. Here, we show that terrestrial hermit crabs, Coenobita rugosus, which frequently change shells, can modify walking behaviour, dependent on the shape of the shell. Hermit crabs walked along a corridor that had alternating left and right corners; if it was narrow at the corner, crabs rotated their bodies to avoid the wall, indicating an awareness of environmental obstacles. This rotation increased when a plastic plate was attached to the shell. We suggest that the shell, when extended by the plate, becomes assimilated to the hermit crab’s own body. While there are cases of a tool being assimilated with the body, our result is the first example of the habitat where an animal lives and/or carries being part of a virtual body.”
It is my theory that emotion is the operating system of animal consciousness, and that in the mind it arises from the problem of locomotion, which by definition requires overcoming obstacles of resistance. This means that an individual’s sense of self arises from an awareness of its physical center of gravity relative to objects of resistance and subject to the laws of motion. Emotional projection is the confluence of these primordial processes that are basic to the problems of existence. Thus an individual’s sense of its body is extended into objects of resistance so that the individual on the deepest level of consciousness, perceives the world as an extension of its physical body. What the researchers term the “virtual body” I term the “emotional body.” Furthermore it is my theory that the fundamental distinction between species is a capacity to project their “self” beyond their specific niche set of orientations. Emotional projection (i.e. extension) of the sense of self is a function of motion. Unfortunately animal behavior is currently being interpreted in terms of human psychology rather than the laws of nature and this obviates what’s really going on.