Some Perspectives on Emotions

Currently many different perspectives on emotions are emerging. For example, biologists and evolutionary psychologists have been examining how human emotions were ‘hard wired’ into the evolution of our bodies over millions of years of adaptation to our natural and social environment. Neurologists have explored the relations between the functioning of the brain, emotions, and cognitive processes. By contrast, social constructionists have focused on the subtle ways that different national and organizational cultures shape the ways emotions are experienced and expressed. Psychoanalysts and psychodynamic scholars, for their parts, have examined how early life experiences influence our later emotional experiences. Many experimental and other psychologists have pursued the long tradition of seeking to measure emotions and economists have, more recently, sought to link emotions (like happiness and depression) to economic indicators like income per capita and unemployment rates.

Something on which all of these approaches agree is that most emotions are not fully willed; we do not choose freely whether and when to have them (although many actors become very skilled at experiencing emotions commensurable with their parts). Emotions often seem to overpower us and to influence our judgments in profound ways. Our decisions and our actions when we feel angry or frightened or enthusiastic appear not to agree with the dictates of reason and prudence. Emotion is often ...

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