Why do we feel emotions?

  1. Emotion as an Interpretation of Physiological Response: This theory states that our innate physiological responses to a situation are interpreted into certain emotions. For example, when feeling threatened and the body goes into fight or flight mode with heart beating faster, palms becoming sweaty, breathing changing dynamics, you interpret that as the emotions of "fear" or "nervousness" depending on the reasoning behind the situation. Only after reasoning do we label this physiological response as an emotion. So this theory is that emotions are just our interpretation of certain combinations of physiological reactions. And why do we have these physiological reactions? Mostly they are innate responses to promote survival, though sometimes these survival instincts kick-in even when our lives are not at risk, such as during public speaking or a job interview. In these cases, drive to succeed in these situations feels so critical that it is confused by the body so that the body reacts as though success = survival.
  2. Emotion as a helping hand to the physiological response to increase chances of survival: This theory states that alongside the physiological reactions to a situation, emotions are there quite separately from the physiological reaction, and exist to intensify the chances of survival by adding another factor to the drive behind survival. In this case, emotions help motivate survival.
  3. Emotion as a result of Thought (and unrelated to physiological responses): This theory is that without thinking about a situation, without interpreting it and reasoning, even if you have phsyiological reactions, there will be no emotions linked to it. This theory states that thoughts are essential for an emtoion to be felt. You may tremble and have a fast-beating heart, but without thinking that your interview will decide if you get an amazing, well-paid job that could change your future for the better, and without thinking of the price of failure, these physiological reactions would not have any emotional link to them. It is possible to have a fast-beating heart, trembling etc without feeling emotions of fear/ stress etc.
  4. Emotions as a result of facial expressions! This theory states that our facial expressions and muscle configurations cue our brains to feel certain emotions. 

Source: http://allpsych.com/psychology101/emotion.html


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