What are emotions?

What are emotions and why do we have them? Fear I can see, as it signals the “fight/flight” response and gets you ready to respond to the burglar or saber-toothed tiger you’ve just seen:eek:. Love probably is to ensure the proper raising of the children by both parents. I’m likely wrong there, and if so, what do they mean, and why do we have any of them? (The need for vengeance seems a particularly useless one.) Are they chemical?

Good question, Sam Hell!

I’ve been researching this exact subject as well. I don’t have time now to explain everything here, so my suggestion for you is to read neurologist Antonio R. Damasio’s ‘Decarte’s Error’ and ‘The Feeling of What Happens’. I think most of your questions are answered there.

As far as revenge goes, I’ve concluded that it is virtually useless in modern society (where you are unlikely to encounter the person again) but would be useful in prehistoric times where people lived in small tribes and could teach somebody ‘a lesson’ and modify their behavior.

Good luck!

It’s interesting that you consider vengence to be a useless emotion in modern society. I agree that it’s much more of a handicap than an advantage, yet we’ve been able to accomidate and even glorify it to some extent, at least in movies or in the “justifiable homicide” defense, as is my admittedly limited understanding of it. You’d think that such a pointless reaction would have been bred out by evolution pretty early on, since it really doesn’t benefit us in any concrete way. Do animals experience it as well?

I don’t know if any animals experience it, but from von Neumann’s Game Theory, it has been shown that a policy of TIT-FOR-TAT beats just about any other strategy for two-person games. This means that if someone screws you, you should immediately screw them over, that way they will be less inclined to screw you again in the future!

Remember, this only holds if you deal with them repeatedly. It doesn’t work if some guy you’ll never see again cuts you off on the highway. But in a tribe of less than 100 people, you could make a name for yourself as someone who doesn’t take any sh*t off of anyone. So revenge has a biological advantage!

Emotions are cognitions. If you didn’t have them you could not know anything.

(Last post to prior thread <1 month ago).

Bees exhibit vengeance. If you damage their hive their first action will be to sting you, and they will pursue for quite a distance until the pheramones wear off. Only later will they begin repairing the hive.

Elephants exhibit vengeance. I’ve seen footage of a disgruntled circus elephant pusuing and attacking its trainers in turn. There was no real provocation, the elephant just finally snapped.

Emotions exist for social purposes. Essentially, humans are social animals. The society of humans is an extremely strong adaptation. We are pack animals. We naturally form heirarchies, we fight as groups, we survive as groups, etc. The emotions are the interface between people and the social order. They have evolved through social selection. You try to pick someone whos temperment you like, to have children with. People who have atypical emotions are often rejected, especially if their emotions are antisocial. Emotions allow many social mechanisms of control and organization. They are the basis of ethics and pretty much all human-to-human interaction.

[Sexy alien-chick voice] “‘Kiss?’ What is . . . ‘kiss?’” [/Sexy alien-chick voice]