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2. What exactly are emotions and why do we have them?

Emotions are difficult to describe. Many dictionaries refer to feelings or moods when defining the word emotion, which further begs the question of what they are. Scientists who attempt to study emotional phenomena characterize them in terms of their particular interest, and thus definitions change depending on whether the scientist is studying the biological basis, psychological basis, or social basis of emotions.

 

This, of course, further complicates the understanding of emotions.  Historically, the mind was thought to be separate from the body and part of the soul. In fact, “psyche” is the Greek root for the word soul. With the advent of a more scientific understanding of the brain and mind, some scientists attempt to liken the mind to software and the brain to hardware. In actuality, however, it is not quite so simple. Every change in thought, feeling, perception, or action is accompanied by a simultaneous change in brain activity. Today, scientists increasingly appreciate the fact that there is no sharp demarcation between the brain and the mind.

Despite the fact that mind and brain are essentially unified, drawing a boundary between the two allows for practical differences between them to be conceptualized in everyday lives. For example, such a boundary permits distinction between acts and motives. Distinguishing acts from motives helps with negotiation through everyday social interactions. Consider how you would feel if someone stepped on your toes. With the immediate sensation of pain you might feel shock, surprise, and probably anger, and you might immediately wonder about the person’s motives or state of mind. Your response is guided by your feelings.

Emotions therefore serve to engage the body to act in some manner, and the manner upon which an action is taken usually carries some survival value to a given individual.

Thus, lack of emotions could be likened to the lack of physical pain sensation. You would be numb to the environment and thus have problems interacting within it appropriately. Without the ability to feel anger, joy, sorrow, fear, or love, you would be incapable of generating priorities to action. Emotions help you to prioritize-to decide when to act and when not to act. Without such abilities, choosing between arrays of decisions you confront on a daily basis would be unfeasible.

 

 

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