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While we as humans have developed significant physical adaptations for our survival and success, there are some crucial adaptations we often overlook. Physical attributes—walking on two legs, opposable thumbs, stereoscopic vision, complex vocal cords, and more—don’t completely explain our species’ success. While many of us would instead point to the human brain, and the resulting human mind, as our most significant adaptation, we actually have astonishing adaptive features that are often overlooked: our emotions.
Our emotions are vital tools in our arsenal of adaptions, ones that we rarely consider or appreciate as a survival mechanism. Some of us might even label emotions as negative or feel they do nothing but get in our way. But from a scientist’s perspective, our emotions are methodic, purposeful, and intelligent.
In the 12 fascinating lectures of Understanding Human Emotions, Professor Lawrence Ian Reed helps us consider emotions from an evolutionary point of view—exploring why we have these consistent feelings and physical responses to specific stimuli in our lives and how they benefit us. That doesn’t mean we feel great when a moment of jealousy pops up or that we should be thrilled to be angry. It does mean that, averaged over the course of evolutionary history, our emotions motivate us to act in ways that best promote our survival and reproduction. Without the full range of our emotions, we simply would not be here.
What Exactly Are Emotions?
We all know what emotions are and yet we find them so difficult to define. We experience them and recognize them in others every single day. At some stages in life, we might even feel controlled by our emotions. Some people claim they try to rise above their emotions and live by reason alone. But what are emotions?
It’s not an easy question, and one that philosophers and scientists have been wrestling with for millennia. In this course, you’ll learn about many of the earliest written musings on the subject, including those of:
Aristotle. The Greek philosopher offered some of the first systematic analysis of emotion in the 4th century BCE. In his book Rhetoric, he wrote that emotions depend upon what we believe and our judgments of events in the world.
Charles Darwin. In his 1870 book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, biologist Charles Darwin argued that emotional expressions came from habits that were useful in our evolutionary past.
William James. The work of 19th century American philosopher and psychologist William James led to the idea that our experience of many emotions involves changes in the autonomic nervous system.
In the second half of the 20th century, the scientific study of emotions came into its own in the brain sciences, psychology, and other social sciences, such as sociology and anthropology. Today, we recognize that emotions can be thought of in computer terms: as superordinate programs that coordinate subprograms in order to motivate adaptive behaviors. In this way, emotions function from an evolutionary perspective as solutions to recurrent problems faced by our ancestors over the course of history.
Emotions and the Body
If emotions are superordinate programs coordinating a variety of subprograms to motivate adaptive behavior, what are these subprograms and how do they help us?
Consider the ancient ancestor who unexpectedly finds himself much closer to a tiger than he ever wanted to be. As his emotion of fear kicks into high gear, hormones surge through his system to prepare him to fight, flee, or freeze. None of those options might be enough to save this particular man in that moment. But without that hormone surge, what would he be doing? He might have reached down to leisurely scratch that mosquito bite on his ankle, started daydreaming, or realized that he was hungry. None of those actions or thoughts would have helped preserve his life in any way. Without the benefit of fear, that man would not have had a chance.
In Understanding Human Emotions, you’ll study the numerous physical capabilities which might be suffering from emotions. In addition to the “butterflies for your stomach” and apprehensive sweating which you would possibly have experienced, you’ll study:
Glucose. The launch of cortisol into the bloodstream turns on glucose production, which is wanted for metabolically high priced movements along with walking or fighting.
Blood flow. Blood flows freely to the fingers whilst we are angry, with a view to put together us for combat, however it stays withinside the chest whilst we’re afraid, to aid flight.
Hunger. No rely how hungry you are, that feeling will evaporate on the sight or odor of meals that would be infected or harmful, way to the protecting emotion of disgust.
Cultural Component of Emotions
While scientists trust all people have the equal emotional potential, the manner wherein feelings are expressed and perceived can depend upon someone’s subculture and related values. In general, in cultures that vicinity a excessive price on self-expression, feelings are understood and expressed otherwise than in cultures that vicinity more price on understanding one’s vicinity inside a bigger society.
One of many charming research you’ll study on this route is the contrast of responses given through American college students of European historical past and responses given through American college students of Asian historical past. Although each companies had comparable physiological responses to feedback of a impolite trainer that commented on their errors even as they have been doing a traumatic task, the European American college students expressed greater seen anger than the Asian American college students. One interpretation of this distinction might be that spontaneous emotional expressions are valued greater notably in Western European cultures, in view that they may be a way to specific the individual’s actual self. And in contrast, the Asian American college students have been much more likely to constrain their expression of anger due to the fact indignant expressions hazard disrupting social harmony, a disruption frowned upon in lots of Asian cultures.
In this route, you’ll study cultural variations withinside the revel in and show of many feelings, including:
Anger. While public expressions of anger are endorsed in a few societies—which include the Ilongot humans of the Philippines and the Yanomamo of South America—in different societies, which include the Inuit humans of North America, anger appears to not often occur.
Shame. In Western cultures, disgrace is visible as detrimental and is to be avoided. But in greater hierarchically established societies, disgrace appears to be greater valued, in particular whilst the disgrace is skilled through someone of decrease status.
Excitement.Some cultures view exhilaration as a pathway to happiness, even as others view it as the street to calmness and serenity.
While the evolutionary and cultural views of emotion do discover extraordinary expression in extraordinary cultures, the 2 views have a whole lot in common, in particular the concept that feelings sell cooperation, that is constantly a crucial aspect for the survival of a species.
Average 26 minutes each
- The Science and Philosophy of Emotions
- How Emotions Evolved
- How the Body and Emotions Influence One Another
- The Social Purpose of Emotions
- Facial Expressions and Nonverbal Behavior
- Self-Conscious Emotions: From Empathy to Shame
- Culture and Emotions
- How Children Develop Emotions
- The Rational and Moral Sides of Emotions
- Emotional Disorders: Anxiety and Depression
- The Purpose of Disgust and Anger
- Connecting People: A Focus on Love
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- Lectures 0
- Quizzes 0
- Duration Lifetime access
- Skill level All levels
- Language English
- Students 0
- Assessments Yes