Damasio, Antonio Department of Neuroscience, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
Last reviewed:March 2019
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- Classical view and the issue of feelings
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A term commonly associated with both behaviors and states of mind (known as feelings) that are not under the control of reason and disturb the flow of consciously directed behavior. Emotions influence human thinking and behavior (Fig. 1), and they play important roles in everyday life. At times, though, emotions are seen frequently as unwelcome and irrational disruptions. Modern studies of emotion, however, paint a different picture, and can be viewed in three ways. First, emotions are not the opposite of reason. Instead, they are older forms of reason, created by biological evolution and not by conscious deliberation. Also, they are engaged automatically, in response to specific circumstances, rather than as the result of thinking through the problem posed by those circumstances. Second, throughout evolution, in both animals and humans, emotions have provided organisms with a rapid, automated means to circumvent dangers and take advantage of opportunities. By and large, emotions are adaptive instruments of life regulation (homeostasis) and contribute to the survival and well-being of individuals and groups. It is true, however, that emotions can be disruptive and counterproductive, especially when they clash with culturally acquired conventions and rules. Third, the behavioral and mental aspects of emotion (that is, the emotional actions and the feelings of emotions, respectively) occur, relative to the triggering cause, in a tight functional sequence that begins with actions and culminates in feelings. It is best to reserve the term emotion to designate the action component of the sequence, and to avoid using it for the feeling component. See also: Affective influence on behavior and cognition; Developmental psychology; Homeostasis; Psychology
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