The Science of Emotions

We may not always realize it, but just like hearing or seeing, our feelings are based on the activity of nerve cells or neurons.

We automatically and without effort experience emotion and often can detect emotion in each other.  

Emotion is an adaptive form of physiological response, and it regulates our daily lives. Emotion is expressed largely through our bodies, with our posture, facial expressions, as well as through such internal processes like blood pressure and heart rate.

Certain hormones are known to help promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure, such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. A stress hormone would be cortisol. We won’t be exploring those specific chemical reactions deeper today, for now that’s enough to know.

The Science of Emotions

Can science explain human emotions?

Results from certain studies have proven human emotions are not just in our heads but are real in an objective scientific sense, as they produce measurable signals in reproducible experiments.

Are emotions biologically based?

Emotions are characterized by the activity of several areas of the brain: the neocortex, brain stem and a region in the limbic system called amygdala. The amygdala is the center for our emotions, emotional behaviour, and motivation.

Where do emotions really come from?

As mentioned the limbic system is a region in the brain, and consists of interconnected structures. It’s the part of the brain that’s responsible for behavioral and emotional responses.

Can we control how we feel?

We can try to manage our emotions in a way that we stay in control. This is known as emotional self-regulation. When you can develop strong emotional regulation skills, your mental health will improve significantly. Can you control your emotions? While we can’t completely eliminate emotions, it can be beneficial to be more logical than emotional in certain situations.

What emotion is behind anger?

Anger is known as a secondary emotion. Usually one of the primary emotions, like sadness or fear, can be found behind the anger. Fear can include things like anxiety and worry, and sadness often comes from the experience of disappointment or loss.

Are emotions learned or genetic?

So are we born with emotions or do we learn them? According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, facial expressions of emotion are hardwired into our genes. The research suggested that facial expressions of emotion are innate rather than learned.

Early emotion scientists mostly agreed with the theory that emotions are innate, biologically driven reactions to certain challenges, sculpted by evolution to help humans survive.

Other experts have looked at the other side, there’s a book by psychologist Lisa Feldman-Barrett, called How Emotions are Made. She challenges the view and argues that emotions are not inborn, automatic responses, but ones that we learn, based on our experiences and prior knowledge from life.

Final Thoughts

One good reason to understand emotions is that it can help you figure out the best way to respond. Your emotional reactions are usually caused by your thoughts; however, sometimes your brain can also trigger an emotional reaction unconsciously and it’s good to be aware of that.

After you have a negative emotional reaction, pay attention to it. Try your best to figure out which emotions you’re feeling and why. This can lead to responding to situations in healthier ways in the future.

If you’re feeling angry or sad, there may be other things that can help like exercise and activity. For example, when people are mad, they usually want to vent or take out their anger somehow. But going for a run instead can calm a person down, allow them to think more clearly, and put themselves in a more positive mood.

Likewise when people are sad, they’ll often just want to stay home in their rooms alone and dwell on their problems. However, this can often just make them feel worse. When sad, even if you don’t feel like it, it can help a lot to go outside and get active. Spend time with a friend or go for a walk.

Finally, another reason that understanding emotions can be good is it can help you understand other people!

In general, if you spend a little time trying to figure out what a person’s thoughts might potentially be, and what past experiences that person has gone through, it would probably also help you understand how that person is feeling.

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The Science of Emotions

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