Definition Rewrite- beforeverge

A Deeper Understanding of Plants

Nature has always been my safe haven. Sitting among the trees, breathing the freshly provided oxygen, calms my nerves. I appreciate their generosity to allow me that relaxed, carefree moment. The peaceful feeling of being just another organism in an interdependent environment is beyond compare. It was only when I learned about the connections of their roots below my feet that I could really admire their sense of unity. I was astounded at how they supported each other in the same way I felt they supported me.

Plants have a strange form of communication and an exchange of recourses that are hidden in the soil. It all sounds very bizarre, with their seemingly basic needs of survival. Yet, there is more to them than meets the eye.

Britt Holewinski explains their bond in the National Forest Foundation article, “Underground Network: The Amazing Connections Beneath Your Feet.” The author describes to readers that fungi create a “mycorrhizal network,” a web of roots that attach to trees and various plants. These roots allow them to share nutrients, water, and even communicate to one another through the webs.

The plants work as a community, giving and sharing resources to promote the survival of the ecosystem. The network allows for the benefit of all the living organisms attached. As Holewinski remarks, plants can interpret distress signals in other plants and respond accordingly. They can even alert for danger, an action that doesn’t only benefit the individual plant.

Although their behavior may sound shocking, it makes sense that they have an almost caring nature for each other. They use each other to survive, similar to how humans do. We provide support for each other, not just for individual benefit, but for our community. The prosperity of the community then turns to help us when we need it.

In humans, we are driven to help by the motivation of emotion. Empathy is what pushes us to aid others in distress. The concept that plants can feel this emotion might be striking, but the behavior that plants display is so similar to empathy seen in human behavior. Recognizing what empathy is will help to better understand the behavior that follows it.

The topic and definition of empathy varies depending on the source. Benjamin M.P. Cuff in the article, “Empathy: A Review of the Concept,” shares his thoughts while debating the various components of the emotion.

To start, it must be triggered by a stimuli. This could be witnessing an expression, a situation, or signaled through communication. In addition, he explains how empathy is separate from sympathy. Sympathy requires understanding the others emotion or situation while empathy is feeling it for yourself. This could also be defined as cognitive empathy, the understanding side, and affective empathy, the ability to feel it.

However, empathy is not the exact replica of the emotion another person is feeling, but the similarity to it. The depth and ability of empathy ranges from person to person. This could cause a reaction and an act of altruism, but it is not required.

Overall, it is summarized as:

Empathy is an emotional response (affective), dependent upon the interaction between trait capacities and state influences. Empathic processes are automatically elicited but are also shaped by top-down control processes. The resulting emotion is similar to one’s perception (directly experienced or imagined) and understanding (cognitive empathy) of the stimulus emotion, with recognition that the source of the emotion is not one’s own.

In the case of plants, the feeling of emotion is not something that can be scientifically tested. Even people themselves can only truly express their feelings through verbal communications. The best way to interpret emotion in plants is through behavior. With their giving nature, the sharing of plant resources appears to be altruistic.

Altruism is a key to viewing behavior caused by empathy. In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, author Karsten Stueber describes the link between empathy and altruism in their entry, Empathy. Stueber shares the findings of Social Psychologist C.D. Batson. He developed the “altruism-empathy thesis;” a theory stating that empathy causes altruistic tendencies. Stueber described that, “empathy/sympathy does indeed lead to genuinely altruistic motivation, where the welfare of the other is the ultimate goal of my helping behavior.”

Moreover, animals are seen as having these same traits. In a classic psychological experiment done by George E. Rice and Priscilla Gainer, albino rats were studied to see if they can express altruistic behavior. The 1962 journal, “Altruism” in the albino rat, narrates their experiment. The researchers used the following definitions for altruism:

Webster (1941) defines altruism as “regard for and devotion to the interests of others.” The authors felt that altruism could be operationally defined as “behavior of one animal that relieves another animal’s ‘distress.’”

The study was done by placing one rat in an elevated chamber with a system that shocked it periodically. A second rat was placed at the bottom with a bar that could be pressed to stop the shocks and lower the rat from the chamber. When the rat in the chamber was shocked, it would show signs of distress, and the rat at the bottom was tested for whether it pressed the bar or not. This would prove the second rat was alleviating the first rat’s distress.

One test group had rats trained to press the bar, and the second test group contained rats with no training. In both study groups, the rats pressed the bar nearly the same number of times. Rice and Gainer concluded that the albino rats had altruistic tendencies after seeing a fellow rat in distress.

Using Rice and Gainer’s definition of altruism, plants and rats have a very similar response to sensing one of their kind in danger. They each administer a response to alleviate their counterpart. Plants can be seen having the same idea of using their resources to aid a distress signal. In plants, it goes further, with even fungi and trees working together to promote the ecosystem’s health.

In addition, with both humans and animals, behavior is used as an identifier for emotion. A person may say what they are feeling, but it’s only their actions that truly prove it. You can view their expression, body language, and actions to help the person in distress. The albino rats were viewed in the same context.

As hard as it is to imagine, plants have nearly identical behavioral responses compared to these complex organisms. 

References

Holewinski, B. (n.d.). Underground networking: The amazing connections beneath your feet. National Forest Foundation. Retrieved 13 October 2022.

Cuff, Benjamin M.P., et al. “Empathy: A Review of the Concept.” Emotion Review, vol. 8, no. 2, 1 Dec. 2014, pp. 144–153. Retrieved 13 October 2022.

Stueber, Karsten. “Empathy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 27 June 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2022.

Rice, G. E., & Rainer, P. (1962). “Altruism” in the albino ratJournal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology. Retrieved 17 October 2022.

This entry was posted in beforeverge, Definition Rewrite, Portfolio BeforeVerge. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Definition Rewrite- beforeverge

  1. beforeverge says:

    I would like feedback on the structure and organization of my essay, as well as tips on how I could make it more fluid.

  2. davidbdale says:

    I’m going to offer comments on structure and flow using your first paragraphs as an example, BeforeVerge. I haven’t read the rest yet.

    1. Plants are the unnoticed living organisms constantly surrounding us. While some people might admire their beauty, they may not know the complicated connections lying beneath them. Britt Holewinski explains their bond in the National Forest Foundation article, “Underground Network: The Amazing Connections Beneath Your Feet.” The author describes to readers that fungi create a “mycorrhizal network,” a web of roots that attach to trees and various plants. These roots allow them to share nutrients, water, and even communicate to one another through the webs.
    —You say plants are unnoticed. Then you say we admire their beauty. Then you say we don’t see what’s underground. Then you say they have an unseen network and use it to communicate. I’ll get back to that.

    2. The network allows for the benefit of all the living organisms attached. They can alert for danger or supply necessary minerals for the survival of the ecosystem.
    —You say the network is a cooperative community.

    3. When observed, this behavior can be seen as caring for the living things in the surrounding environment. As Holewinski remarks, plants can sense distress and respond accordingly. Their ability to react to the signals and assist in any way possible shows signs of an emotional response. It is similar to what people describe as empathy in humans.
    —You introduce the idea of “caring behavior” as if you have earned it. You say plants “sense” distress (for themselves or for other plants?) and respond (for self-preservation or for the community?). Then you say they “assist” (that would have to be for others), and that their assistance is “emotional,” therefore empathetic.

    4. The topic and definition of empathy varies depending on the source. Benjamin M.P. Cuff in the article, “Empathy: A Review of the Concept,” shares his thoughts while debating the various components of the emotion.
    —Then you move on to describe empathy with the help of a source.

    I’m going to suggest that, instead of expecting readers to follow you in a very few words from “we don’t notice these organisms at all” to “they’re just like us emotionally,” you first acknowledge that what you’re about to say will sound preposterous. Then ENGAGE your readers in just how astounding YOU KNOW these claims sound. Work WITH THEIR DISBELIEF instead of expecting to bully through it.

    This is just a model:

    I have a friend who sings to her houseplants to help them bloom. She also thinks her spider plant is a Taurus and describes it as “stubborn.” I have to admit she seems less crazy, now that I know how intimately plants communicate through the complicated web of interconnections below the soil known as the mycorrhizal network. The concept takes time to appreciate, and I won’t try to convince you that plants have feelings or empathize with each other’s distress, but I will insist that they ACT IS IF THEY DO, and you can decide for yourselves if they feel for one another or bloom because they like my friend’s playlist.

    Helpful as a model? Do you like the approach? Understand the value of leading in gently to this very counterintuitive network of claims?

  3. davidbdale says:

    If plants were to sense a stress signal, it is possible they feel empathy for the organism sending it, and send nutrients to lessen their own sense of negativity. It is not much different than humans sending food for a grieving friend. They want to alleviate their own feelings while attempting to make their friend feel better.

    Unlikely you’ll get a buy-in on this radical concept after 500 words, but you don’t need it. Belief is asking too much. Openness to the evidence is sufficient. Do we know that people are altruistic? How? Through their actions. Do plants act in ways that benefit other plants? If yes, then . . . .

    Lead your readers to the brink of deciding for themselves that plants want to help one another.

  4. davidbdale says:

    The rat stuff is really smart. It’s a nice bridge. Can you find that delicate balance? We claim altruism for ourselves without any proof. We want to bestow it on rats if “they’re enough like us,” which means, “if they act like the best of us.” We DO NOT consider plants to be like us at all, so it’s a bridge too far for 1000 words.

    So the strategy might be: Doubt why we claim altruism for ourselves. Acknowledge that it’s through behavior that we believe in it. Attribute the characteristic to animals that mimic the behavior. And then, if plants do too, . . . then we’re judging the “feeling” on the same basis.

  5. beforeverge says:

    I revised! I’m not sure what feedback to ask for now so anything would be good. Thank you.

  6. davidbdale says:

    That’s a lovely first paragraph that’s about 85% of the way to sublime.

    Nature has always been my safe haven. Sitting among the trees, breathing the freshly provided oxygen, calms my nerves. I appreciate their generosity to allow me that relaxed, carefree moment. The peaceful feeling of being just another organism in an interdependent environment is beyond compare. It was only when I learned about the connections of their roots below my feet that I could really admire their sense of unity. I was astounded at how they supported each other in the same way I felt they supported me.

    —If you’re going to focus on trees, it’s “the forest” that is your haven. Then the trees naturally follow.
    —The “freshly provided” oxygen deprives them credit. Active rather than passive would let the trees provide it for you.
    —Their “generosity” allowing you similarly doesn’t let them actively give the moment to you.

    Take care with who senses what. Your essay flirts with “organic consciousness” as it is, so choose your spots. Their SENSE of unity is different from their INTERDEPENDENCE. It suggests they REALIZE their unity. Likewise, you FELT they supported you. Did you do that deliberately?

    [I’m quite taken with my own little “organic consciousness” there. It reminds me of the “carpentered environment.” Those 1000-word-phrases can be very powerful persuaders if you can seduce your readers into accepting them.]

  7. davidbdale says:

    I must be pretty satisfied with your overall work to be concentrating so much on finesse feedback, BeforeVerge. Let’s look at this little jewel of a paragraph.

    Plants have a strange form of communication and an exchange of recourses that are hidden in the soil. It all sounds very bizarre, with their seemingly basic needs of survival. Yet, there is more to them than meets the eye.

    —Do you mean strange as in mysterious?
    —It doesn’t say as much as it could.
    —We too have a strange communication system inside our own bodies. Several in fact. Do you want to suggest that they have a nervous system that communicates among plants similar to the way our organs send messages to and receive them from the brain? We send nutrients through our bloodstream. Etc.
    —Instead of insisting on the bizarre aspect AS DIFFERENT, it might not be too soon to make analogies to the SIMILARITIES with other organic systems that sound crazy but function nonetheless.
    —One phrase that REALLY needs to go is “with their needs.” Its meaning is so unclear it has no value.

  8. davidbdale says:

    I’m going to take your post out of Feedback Please for the time being, BV. You may certainly request additional help, but I want to spend some time with students who so far have received none. Reply, please, to what I’ve said so far. Keeping the conversation going is the best way to assure my continuing involvement.

  9. beforeverge says:

    I’m putting this in feedback please because my rewrite has not been graded yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s