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Articles

What is emotion?

Date: 2024-04-30

Tzu-Yuan Yen, MD

When we enjoy some activities, we tend to do it over and over again. When we feel disgusted by something, we tend to avoid them. Strong emotions like excitement, anger, and sad, often change our behavior remarkably. People suffered by emotional dysregulation facing problems on job, friendship and family life. So what is emotion after all? By definition, emotions are motor response to stimulus that can benefit our survival, either as individual or as a group. For example, when a mouse smell of fox urine, fear responses was ensued, which enable the mouse to flee.  If animals too have emotions, what really intrigues us might be: Do animals experience emotions like us?  Are animals aware of their emotions?

When we are aware of our emotions, that is, when emotion enters into cognition, we call it “feelings”. Neocortex of our brain recognize and modulate our emotions, and we are able to experience subtle feeing. A set of feelings are relevant to interpersonal relationships. Jealousy, envy, shame, love or hate, are some of them. These “social feelings” guide us to respond with intricate social behavior and help us navigate the complex social interactions of human society. We can argue that most species do not experience feeling, while some species with somewhat developed cortex likes chimps might experience feeling as well. The part of human brain cortex dedicated to social emotions give us tremendous evolutionary niche over other species with less social skills. This, some suspect, is why we prevail over Neanderthals.

 

 

Reference:

  1. Lectures in Neuroscience. Rafael Yuste. 2023. Columbia University Press.
  2. Lonliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. John T. Cacioppo & William Partrick. 2008. Norton.
view:28updated date:2024-06-26
view:28updated date:2024-06-26