An emotion is a process by which cognitive and sensory information about an external stimulus is transmitted from the pathways of the body to the spinal cord, forming synapses and stimulating both hormonal secretion and the activity of glands, muscles and tissues.
If we take into account only the above definition, we can think of it as a completely individual process or experience; however, emotions are also relational phenomena, as they are loaded with cultural meanings that allow us to act and interact in certain ways.
In relation to this and elaborating a path that goes from facial expression to social functions, passing through the cognitive functions; in this article we will see 10 scientific keys about the power of emotions .
The power of emotions in 10 scientific keys
These are some of the key ideas that help to understand the importance of emotions.
1. Body postures and facial recognition
Emotions shape our body postures, they are reflected in our gestures in the way we speak, sit, walk and address others. We can easily tell if someone is feeling nervous, sad, angry, happy, etc.
One of the most influential and recent theories on emotions in relation to facial expression , has been that of Paul Ekman, who, in addition to making different contributions to basic emotions, perfected the facial coding system developed in Sweden, which allowed the recognition of different emotions through involuntary movements of the facial, eye and head muscles.
2. Adaptive and evolutionary character
Among other things, the theory of basic emotions has suggested that there are a certain number of emotions that we experience in order to respond adequately or adaptively to certain stimuli. From this perspective, emotions are understood as neuropsychological phenomena that motivate or facilitate adaptive behaviours .
3. Conduct and Decision Making
From the above, we also have a behavioural perspective of emotions, from which we understand that the emotion itself functions as a consequence, positive or negative, that allows us to discriminate between which behaviours to reproduce and in which circumstances.
In other words, experiencing certain emotions at certain times allows us to modify our behaviour in the medium and long term ; depending on whether the emotion experienced was pleasant or unpleasant.
4. Reasoning and thought patterns
The emotions also allow us to elaborate processing and thinking schemes, which in turn unfold a set of possibilities for action. In other words, emotions predispose us to action and allow us to generate attitudes, conclusions, projects, plans and decisions. They also facilitate the process of consolidation of memory and attention, so they play an important role in cognition.
5. Conduct teaching-learning processes
In relation to the above, one of the central functions of the emotions, which has been especially studied and disseminated in recent years, is the possibility of facilitating teaching-learning processes through affectively charged experiences.
For example, neuroscientist Francisco Mora says that the brain learns through emotion . In other words, that without the presence of emotions the basic elements of the learning process, such as curiosity, attention and memory, do not exist. The same researcher has invited us to explore and stimulate the above from the early stages of schooling.
6. Cognitive-emotional processes and somatization
Something that the study of emotions has made evident is the relationship between mood and somatic activity . In this sense, the subject of somatization (how emotions can generate important organic discomfort) has been widely studied. Among other things, neurophysiology has proposed that clinical somatization is directly related to a specific activity of the central nervous system; specifically the amygdala, the cortex of the cingulate and the prefrontal areas.
7. Social relations regulators
A part of sociology has proposed for several decades now that emotions also function as social regulators. For example, it has been studied how annoyance, guilt, shame, and sympathy make a certain interaction possible.
They allow us, among other things, to negotiate and reflect on the behaviours that we can or cannot repeat in each social situation. In the same sense, through emotions we generate frameworks of cognitive and affective identification that allow us to interact with others,
8. Social norms and subjectivities
In the psychosocial field we can see that emotions mark agency (possibilities of action in certain contexts), as well as modes of desire and subjectivity.
Through the emotions we deploy mechanisms of control and vigilance over ourselves and others, which allow us to feel and behave in a way that is socially recognized as appropriate . Societies in our time define individuals according to the emotions they experience or manifest.
9. Reproduction and social change
Generally, emotions correspond to the dominant values of a society and a given moment. For example, we can recognize more or less emotional subjects, and certain emotions are allowed in according to whether they are women, men, boys or girls .
However, although through emotions we reproduce social norms and power relations, emotional appropriation does not occur passively but reflectively: it helps to resolve contradictions and act in accordance with what is expected of each person. Therefore, emotions have the potential to be both social re-producers and processes of change.
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