Are emotions irrelevant


In antiquity and in the Middle Ages, which had no name of its own for "feeling", was used with Greek. pathos or Latin. passio or the largely synonymous expressions affectus and affectio denotes states of mind such as pleasure and displeasure as well as emotional movements such as love, hate, joy and fear. In modern times, the term "feeling" is initially used unspecifically: both to denote feelings in the sense of Emotions(E. emotions) in the further and Passions(E. passions) in the narrower sense as well as for naming Sensations(E. sensations), in the German-speaking area especially for the sense of touch. David Hume made a distinction between feeling (the feeling of impressions) and sentiment (emotive states). Since Plato at the latest, emotions and reason have been viewed as antagonistic areas of the mind that lead a constant struggle for dominance over the human psyche. Plato compared the passions to wild horses that must be restrained by the mind. He understood this as a kind of charioteer who was prevented by desires and fears from thinking. This tradition also includes the views of René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume and Immanuel Kant. The contrast between reason and passion, thinking and feeling, cognition and emotion usually led to a devaluation of emotions - at least in connection with gaining knowledge and Decisions. "You can disprove someone ad nauseam without convincing them. Feeling survives insight," noted Jean Paul, and Robert Musil wrote: "Truth comes from cold blood; feeling is detrimental to it." Hume considered reason to be the slave of passions, but affirmed this. And even Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who tried to define the history of philosophy as a history of development of reason and spirit, admitted like Kant that nothing great could be achieved without passion. Another tradition goes back to Aristotle, who regarded humans as rational beings (animal rationale), but also emphasized the need to cherish the right emotions and to overcome inappropriate ones. He meant that an emotion always contains a factual or value judgment in addition to a sensation component. This view can also be found in the Stoics Seneca and Chrysippus and later again in Thomas Aquinas and Baruch de Spinoza. In the cognitive evaluation theories (see below) it lives on to this day. The Stoics, however, considered emotions to be misguided judgments in a world that cannot be changed. A goal of the Stoa - like Buddhism - was therefore dispassion (Greek. apatheia), the release of emotions and attachments to minimize human unhappiness; Spinoza has argued in a similar way. At the latest with Friedrich Nietzsche, however, an appreciation of feelings began. He even attributed an intelligence of its own to emotions, so he no longer saw rationality and emotionality as opposites, but as complementary, and considered a belief in reason to be escapism. With his hypothesis of the logic of affect, Luc Ciompi argues that thinking cannot be understood in isolation from emotions, and the concept of emotional intelligence coined by Daniel Goleman also points to the contribution of emotions in successful action and problem-solving. Brain damage (especially of the frontal lobe, see below) has now sufficiently proven that "neural Kantians of pure reason" do not cope better, but much worse in everyday life (frontal lobe syndrome). Sartre even went so far as to interpret emotions as phenomena of belief that "constitute a magical world by using our body as a conjuring device," that is, as willful strategies for dealing with a difficult world that the world justifies, but also consciousness in Maneuvering a trap (e.g. hysteria). - In romanticism, feeling is even given priority. For Friedrich Hölderlin, feeling is "understanding and will at the same time", for Novalis thinking is "just a dream of feeling, a pale gray weak life". In poetry, feelings are often seen as a kind of source of knowledge, and vice versa, art is supposed to produce new feelings. "A completed poem is one in which an emotion finds its thought and the thought finds the words," wrote Robert Frost. "The only point of music: it should create new emotions," said Kodwo Eshun. Since the 18th century, feeling has also become a basic concept in moral philosophy and aesthetics. Feelings also play a decisive role in a philosophical anthropology and thus an understanding of man and his conditions, since almost all areas of human conscious life are focused on pleasure and displeasure.

Theories (see table 8 for an overview)

The modern era of emotion research began in 1884 with William James wondering whether feelings cause emotional reactions or vice versa: do we run away from a bear because we are afraid of it or are we afraid because we run? James and independently Carl Lange (1885) advocated the latter, ie that the feedback from the reactions triggered by the stimulus determines the feelings: The specific nature of the sensory feedback should give the respective emotion its specific quality, and the differences in feelings would be determined by the differences in physical reactions - in short: we do not tremble because we are afraid and we do not cry because we are sad, but we are afraid because we tremble and we are sad because we cry. This hypothesis was criticized in the 1920s by Walter Cannon, who recognized that the bodily reactions are decisively mediated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), e.g. the fight-or-flight reaction by the sympathetic nervous system (autonomic nervous system). Since, according to Cannon, very different emotions have the same or a similar ANS signature, i.e. are too unspecific and undifferentiated to trigger certain feelings, and since the ANS reaction (e.g. release of hormones) is too slow to generate feelings, he concluded that although the feedback influences behavior, it is not responsible for the emergence of conscious feelings, but that these are generated by the brain alone. It is now known that the visceral responses are more specific than Cannon believed. However, due to their smooth muscles, they are still too slow, in contrast to the somatic reactions that reach the cortex within less than a second. In fact, the feedback of expressive facial muscle activities, e.g. smiling, can influence the emotional life (E. facial feedback hypothesis). In the 1960s, Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer tried to combine the hypotheses of James and Cannon by assuming that the gap between the unspecific feedback and the specifically experienced emotions was filled cognitively, i.e. through thoughts. The feedback is a reliable indicator that something important is happening; this expresses itself in a physical excitement that gives rise to a cognitive assessment of the situation, which determines the type of feeling. This is supported by the fact that the excitement that can be triggered by an injection of the hormone adrenaline is interpreted differently depending on the context (happy feelings are felt in a pleasant situation, rather sad feelings in an unpleasant situation), which is not or is not the case with placebo injections. is not so clearly the case. If test subjects are given incorrect information about their physical reactions (e.g. heart rate), this also influences the assessment of a situation (e.g. men find women more attractive if fictitious measurements suggest that men have a higher pulse). Accordingly, it is not the physiological excitation itself, but its cognitive representation and interpretation that is decisive for the development of specific feelings - an idea that Aristotle, Descartes and Spinoza already expressed, and that as cognitive evaluation theory of emotions was championed in particular by Richard Lazarus. However, this approach also leaves open how the physical reactions come about at all. In 1960 Magda Arnold tried to explain this with the assumption that the brain unconsciously evaluates the situation; the emotion is the "felt tendency" towards or away from something (with a positive or negative evaluation). Feelings arise when these emotions become accessible through introspection, i.e. become conscious. This is supported by the fact that viewing a scene of violence, for example, is perceived as differently bad depending on the commentary on the film. To this day, many cognitive psychologists are of the opinion that cognitive evaluations of stimuli are decisive for the development of specific feelings. However, this view relies heavily on the test subjects' self-reports (which harbors the risk of self-deception) and blurs the differences between cognition and emotions. In addition, experiments have shown that unconscious perceptions (e.g. via subliminal, i.e. subliminal stimuli) cause or influence emotions without explicit evaluations necessarily playing a role (which does not mean, however, that cognition and emotion are independent of one another). Robert Zajonc concluded from this that it is not cognitive evaluations but rather unconscious affects that are decisive for the development of feelings ("preferences need no inferences") - i.e. that emotional reactions can take place without prior cognitive processes, and that perceptions are already emotionally colored. To this extent, emotions are primarily understood as motivations that stimulate action, as markings of cognitive processes and as instigators for certain thought processes. In the meantime, this view has largely become established: unconscious evaluations stand between stimuli and reactions and between stimuli and feelings, because the brain has to choose from the abundance of stimuli and ignore many. This is also supported by the fact that many people find their emotions confusing and find it difficult to put them into words, and that others often assess the emotional state of a person much more accurately than the person concerned. Contrary to some everyday experience, introspection is inadequate and conscious processes in the evaluations are therefore not necessary . It is therefore useful to distinguish between the apparent cause of an emotion (the immediately present and consciously perceived stimuli) and the real causes (which do not even have to be immediately present stimuli, but can also consist, for example, in the activation of implicit contents of the memory). In this respect, the cognitive evaluation theories are too one-sided: they have dealt with causes rather than causes. - Current approaches are primarily integrative, i.e. try to bring as many empirical findings and theoretical arguments as possible into a coherent picture and to relate this to the current state of knowledge in neuroscience. In fact, the advances here are so promising that a neuronally based theory of individual emotions, especially fear and fear, is already beginning to emerge. In the meantime, there is also much to be said for not equating emotion and cognition, but rather as separate but interacting mental functions or brain systems: 1) The perceptual representation of an object is processed by the brain separately from the evaluation of the emotional significance of this object: preventing certain brain lesions the evaluation, but not the perception. 2) The evaluation can start before the perception systems have fully processed the stimulus. Sometimes the brain even knows whether something is good or bad before it knows exactly what it is. 3) The neural basis for the memories of emotional meanings of stimuli is different from that for the cognitive processing of these stimuli. 4) The emotional evaluation systems are more closely related to the systems for controlling emotional reactions than the systems for cognitive processes. The latter are more flexible and give freedom of choice, while the former almost automatically lead to the emotional reactions.

Neural basics

Emotions are based on both cortical (cerebral cortex) and subcortical structures. The processes involved in emotions are hierarchically structured and encompass different parts of the brain, from the sensory apparatus to the neocortex. At every level there are automatic and self-regulating mechanisms that prevent complete control by a higher-level system. The subsystems are connected by positive and negative feedback control mechanisms (for the lateralization of emotions see additional info 1; for the effects of chemical substances see additional info 2). - Even after the entire cerebral cortex has been removed (decortication), cats still show characteristic emotional reactions: If provoked, they crouch, hunch back, put their ears on, stick out their claws, growl, hiss, bite and show signs of ANS excitation such as pelts, dilation of the pupils, etc. However, the behavior of the animals is not normal: Their angry behavior (false anger) is unbridled and even on the slightest occasion - the regulating control by the cortex is missing. If the hypothalamus is also removed (or the thalamus, which transmits emotional stimuli to both the hypothalamus and the cerebral cortex), the emotions cease entirely or, in the case of very painful stimuli, only occur in an uncoordinated manner. Walter Cannon and Philip Bard concluded from such experiments as early as 1929 that the hypothalamus triggers emotional reactions via its descending nerve pathways to the body and that it seems to be involved in the emotional sensations via its ascending pathways to the cortex. D.B. Lindsley's activation theory (1951), which proposed the ascending reticular activating system as the central emotional substrate, expanded this notion; it is still important today in the context of research into emotions using the electroencephalogram. The role of the hypothalamus in emotional events became clear from the 1930s onwards by James Olds, Stephen Ranson and Walter Hess, among others, through electrical stimulation via inserted electrodes. For example, ANS reactions (blood pressure, heart rate, mobility of the digestive tract, etc.) and various behavioral patterns (anger, defense, etc.) could be triggered. Where stimulation creates anger (in the lateral area), lesions lead to calm. The stimulation of certain places revealed, as it were, the existence of "entertainment areas" in the brain. These include, in particular, the lateral hypothalamus and the medial forebrain bundles, a diffuse, widely branched network of nerve fibers that connects large areas of the brain starting from the hypothalamus, as well as certain regions in the olfactory bulb, hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, cingulate gyrus, putamen, thalamus, caudate and in the amygdala. Rats that had the opportunity to electrically stimulate these "pure lust" generating regions by pressing a button practiced this Self-irritation until exhaustion. They went without food, abandoned their boys and sexual partners, and tirelessly pressed the button, often hundreds of times an hour in a row. These brain regions are not necessarily the "seat of pleasure", as was initially assumed, but rather places of connection that trigger pleasure elsewhere. But there are also regions of the brain that only stimulated the animals once because they evidently triggered strong aversions. Electrical stimulation can also induce feelings in humans, e.g. irritation of the anterior and medial temporal lobes creates fear and sadness. However, these feelings were perceived as "not real". - In 1937 James Papez expanded the hypothesis of the hypothalamus as an emotion center and tried to explain the origin of the subjective experience of emotions through a circle of anatomical connections. Then an emotional stimulus activates the thalamus through several intermediate stages. This activates on the one hand the hypothalamus ("feeling current"), which triggers physical emotional reactions, and on the other hand the sensory cortex ("thought current"), which generates emotional sensations via the gyrus cinguli (part of the ancestral old medial cortex). It also projects to the hippocampus, this to the hypothalamus, this to the anterior thalamus, and this back to the cingulate gyrus (Papez circle). Even then, the cingulate gyrus was ascribed a central role because its damage resulted in apathy, drowsiness, delirium, depression, loss of emotional spontaneity, disorientation in time and space and occasionally coma.As far as we know today, this neural network plays a subordinate role for emotions; however, it is an important foundation for explicit memory. - In two important publications in the history of neuroscience in 1949 and 1952, Paul MacLean expanded Papez 'hypothesis, taking into account the now known findings that lesions of the temporal lobe make certain emotions such as anger and fear disappear (Klüver-Bucy syndrome). He assumed that evolutionarily old parts of the medial cortex, the so-called rhinencephalon, which is connected to the hypothalamus, were decisive for the development of emotional sensations. MacLean baptized it visceral brain and later summarized it with other brain structures (those of the Papez circle as well as amygdala, septum, mamillary body, prefrontal cortex) under the term limbic system. He considered this to be the genealogical original brain region that is responsible for ensuring survival and the associated affective behaviors (food acquisition, reproductive instinct, flight and fight). According to MacLean, emotions are based on the association of sensory sensations coming from the environment with visceral sensations from within the body, and this integration takes place in the limbic system, the center of which he saw in the hippocampus. MacLean also called the pyramidal cells arranged next to one another an "emotional keyboard". In 1970 he even expanded this great synthesis. According to his speculation of the triune brain, the forebrain developed in three stages: from the reptilian brain (which fish, amphibians and birds also have) to the brain of the paleo-mammals, which also got the limbic system "saddled up", to the brain of the neo-mammals (primates and other higher mammals) with the neocortex. From a neuroanatomical point of view, this notion cannot be maintained, and the concept of the limbic system has also meanwhile moved away from the concept of the limbic system due to the lack of independent definition criteria and its lack of focus and ambiguity. The hippocampus also only plays a secondary role in emotional events, and this is not based on a uniform neural system. MacLean's achievement, however, was to consider the emotional brain from an evolutionary perspective, to clearly emphasize its independent function in addition to the conscious cognitive processes (he spoke of the "word brain") as well as the knowledge that many psychiatric problems (e.g. psychosomatic disorders) are due to impairments of the emotional Systems and are difficult to access cognitive processing. - The study of lesions in the ventromedial frontal lobe made a decisive advance in understanding the neural basis of emotions. They lead to a lack of emotions and impairment of social life, but not to a loss of cognitive abilities (e.g. intelligence, vocabulary, arithmetic, spatial imagination). However, those affected change a lot in their personality; they are noticeable, for example, through stubborn behavior, stealing, outbursts of anger, and a lack of guilt or compassion (frontal lobe syndrome). They also have considerable difficulty making decisions in complex situations. The reason is that they only approach the problems intellectually, which does not lead to satisfactory results due to the usually short time and the factual unpredictability of the situation. In experiments with playing cards (e.g. choosing between two stacks with different gains and losses), healthy test subjects quickly learn to listen to intuition and the feelings "in the gut" and immediately behave correctly - often before they even realize which decision the better one is. The brain-damaged do not succeed in this, and often they even act against their better judgment. It turns out that they lack the secondary, i.e. learned, emotions. Emotional stimuli that do not trigger feelings innately but only together with background knowledge (e.g. dismay or sadness when looking at concentration camp photos) remain ineffective. At best, the patients wonder why they are so indifferent to earlier when looking at such images. Their electrical skin resistance (electrodermal activity) does not change either, which is normally the case with emotional excitement. According to Antonio R. Damasio, secondary emotions arise over "somatic markers": Physiological body states (especially blood pressure, heartbeat, activity of the viscera, etc.), which are represented in the brain and mark a kind of evaluation of certain processes (see figure). These often unconscious signals are generated by the emotional memory and have a significant influence on decision-making in complex situations, i.e. especially in social areas, provided they are not completely unfamiliar. Once established, the superimposition of cognitive content and somatic markers can also take place without the physical processes. In the frontal lobe, ideas of counterfactual situations are then generated, "as if loops" that influence the body representation in the brain, as it were in the form of a simulation of the physical feedback. This allows an emotional evaluation of even fictitious situations, which is of great help for far-reaching planning. This hypothesis is supported by positron emission tomography recordings, which show that the frontal cortex is more active the more uncontrollable a task is, i.e. the more a decision depends on intuitive assessments. A "pure reason" according to Kant without emotions therefore in no way leads to better decisions but, in the case of ventromedial deficits, even to psychopathy and sociopathy. Children with prefrontal damage have ethical developmental disorders and show lifelong impairments in moral decisions and social thinking. - According to Joseph LeDoux, conscious emotional experiences are made up of several components: 1) A specialized one Emotion systemthat receives sensory inputs and generates behavioral, autonomic and hormonal responses; 2) cortical sensory buffers that hold information about the currently given stimuli (short-term memory); 3) Working memory, in which the content of short-term memories is represented and updated; 4) cortical excitation; 5) Physical feedback of visceral and somatic information to the brain. When fear and fear arise, the neural basis of this general scheme has already been deciphered quite well (fear). The amygdala plays a central role. It is activated by the sensory thalamus and cerebral cortex sensory fields and projects back both to the cortical sensory areas from which it receives inputs and to other sensory cortical fields. It also projects to non-specific excitation systems (acetylcholine transmitter system) that increase the general level of activation of the cortex, and from these to various areas of the forebrain (frontal lobes and subcortical regions). In this way, it can influence attention, perception and memory in dangerous situations. In addition, there is feedback from the physical expression of emotions to the amygdala and the cortical areas, these visceral and muscular reactions being influenced by the amygdala itself. As a result, there are no disembodied emotions, as William James already suspected (at least an as-if loop must be activated, which refers to previous body reactions). James was also the one who had already suspected in 1890: "An experience can stir our emotions so that it almost leaves a scar in the cerebral tissue." In the case of anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders, we are now beginning to understand how such neuronal "scars" can form and have an impact. In this respect, research into emotions also opens up grounds for hope that one day we will be able to better treat severe psychological ailments. But a more precise understanding of emotions and feelings is also a contribution to anthropology in the sense of the ancient motto "Know thyself", because, as Joseph LeDoux put it, "the threads that hold mental events together. They determine, who we are - in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. "

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