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Unread July 29th, 2006, 08:13 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?


I'm offering a clarification here because I have felt for a while that my use of the term emotion is being misunderstood (no doubt due to my failure to clearly describe my use of the term).

When most people think of emotion they are thinking of feelings - our awareness of things that we describe as joy or pain or cold or sadness.

I am using the term in the way that Damasio uses it: to mean a physiological change of state in our body. That change of state can include many measurable changes such as heart rate, perspiration, breathing rate, dilation of pupils, blinking eyes, squinting eyes, - and also different blood flow patterns in the body, especially in the brain, and the release of various neurotransmitters and other chemicals in our CNS.

So, I am using emotion to very broadly refer to any physiological reaction of our bodies to environmental events or changes. The environment in this case includes events and changes that happen inside our bodies too - such as diseased or injured tissues and organs and the mental images that we might produce in our minds.

These physiological state-changes (emotions) are usually signals that something has happened that can possibly affect our well-being or our survival. Our bodies are designed to generate these automatically - as are the bodies of all living things including plants and viruses.

These emotions are the first stage of a response (sometimes a response that we classify as a behavior) that can mitigate any potential damage that is being signalled or that could cause us to take advantage of some beneficial situation that may present itself.

The emotions I am referring to happen continuously in our bodies, often several at the same time, and we are almost never consciously aware of them.

If you think of emotions in the narrow sense as merely feelings that we experience like joy or sorrow - then my hypothesis won't make any sense.

Behavior Choice

One of the responses that can be triggered by these emotions is a conscious or unconscious behavior choice. When we choose a particular behavior from a set of choices - I am proposing that we do so as the result of a subconscious reckoning of some of these emotional signals that resolve at a particular place in our brains where we make behavior choice decisions.

One of the most important sources for these behavior choice emotions is our belief system - which holds all the various cause and effect relationships we have learned about the world that can affect our well-being or survival. Things like flames can burn us and Pistachio ice cream tastes best. Our beliefs are typically based on some combination of real world observation and testing - and folk intuitions. Often different parts (compartments) of our belief system depend more on one of these than the other.

We use our intellect to examine and edit our beliefs. Using our intellect we sometimes update our beliefs (or create temporary new beliefs) at the time that we are making a behavior choice to make sure they are based on the most current data.

In the most basic sense, every behavior choice is a de facto belief - at the emotional level of knowing - that we will benefit from that choice more than from any alternatives.

But, we all have an aversion to editing our strongly held identity beliefs. To edit those we are effectively editing our personality - and that can be difficult and even painful.

For important decisons - where we most depend on our existing identity beliefs - we are highly dependant on prior editing to assure that those beliefs are as congruent with reality as possible.

I hope this is clearer.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; July 30th, 2006 at 01:48 PM.
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