Purpose of Emotions

by phil on Tuesday Jan 6, 2004 12:54 PM

What is the purpose of emotions?

A quick response from what seems to be the standard psych answer:

That emotions "serve the useful purpose of letting us know what's going on and motivating us to take some form of action" (link).

I'm in agreement with this, that emotions are there primarily to alert and to motivate. Its etymological roots are excite and move.


are the big ones.

Another one mentioned here is that of a "social signal." Emotions help us communicate to others our state, helping them to adjust themselves to how we feel. They also mentioned it helps us weigh outcomes.

So, the big 4:
Awareness, Motivation, Communication, Decision-Making (Thank you Go(d)ogle)


In any definition of something, it's important to look at the NEGATIVE SPACE. So what are emotions NOT good for....

Well, for one. Emotions cannot tell you the truth about something. A rational analysis of the evidence can tell you what's right and wrong. Emotions will bias you, and leads to things like faith.

Emotions cannot fix your problems. Free will can. You can't anger something to a solution. One could argue that motivating is a principle agent of action, and emotions create motivation. However, emotion must be combined with a desire to act in order to become motivation. If, for example, you have a victim's mentality, you don't place as much importance or responsibility on your own actions. You may feel a strong pain or desire, but may not think to get up and act on it. You may sit and stew, but not necessarily come up with a plan of action.

And even then, once you have the motivation, you have to have to actually carry it through. You have to send the signals to your muscles and move.

So yeah, that's emotions.

What it does:
- draws your attention
- motivates
- communicates
- colors your decisions

What it doesn't do:
- reveal the truth
- solve your problems

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