Thursday, August 30, 2007

Emotion, Meta-emotion, and Reason

Emotion is generally regarded by Western civilization as the antithesis of reason. This distinction stems from Western philosophy specifically Cartesian dualism and modern interpretations of Stoicism, and is reflected in common phrases like appeal to emotion or your emotions have taken over.

Emotions can be undesired either to the individual experiencing them, but also can be undesired to the other persons, groups of persons, organizations, sub-cultures, and civilizations such as Western civilization, which can be viewed as the emotion being subjected to the individual's or someone else's discouraging meta-emotion about the undesired emotion or can be even repressed by the meta-emotions. Thus one of the most distinctive, and perhaps challenging, facts about human beings is this potential for entanglement, or possibly opposition, between emotion, meta-emotion, will, and reason.

Definition of emotion

Emotion is complex, and the term has no single universally accepted definition.[1] The study of emotions is part of psychology, neuroscience, and, more recently, artificial intelligence.

According to Sloman,[2] emotions are cognitive processes. Some authors emphasize the difference between human emotions and the affective behavior of animals.

In Paul D. MacLean's classic Triune brain model, emotions are defined as the responses of the Mammalian cortex. Emotion competes with even more instinctive responses from the Reptilian cortex and the more logical, reasoning neocortex. However, current research on the neural circuitry of emotion suggests that emotion is an essential part of human decision-making and planning, and that the famous distinction made by Descartes between reason and emotion is not as clear as it seems.[3]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Psychology of love

Psychology depicts love as a cognitive and social phenomenon. PsychologistRobert Sternberg formulated a triangular theory of love and argued that love has three different components: Intimacy, Commitment, and Passion. Intimacy is a form by which two people can share secrets and various details of their personal lives. Intimacy is usually shown in friendships and romantic love affairs. Commitment, on the other hand, is the expectation that the relationship is going to last forever. The last and most common form of love is sexual attraction and passion. Passionate love is shown in infatuation as well as romantic love. This led researchers such as Yela[citation needed] to further refine the model by separating Passion into two independents components: Erotic Passion and Romantic Passion.

Following developments in electrical theories, such as Coulomb's law, which showed that positive and negative charges attract, analogs in human life were developed, such as "opposites attract". Over the last century, research on the nature of human mating has generally found this not to be true when it comes to character and personality; people tend to like people like themselves. However, in a few unusual and specific domains, such as immune systems, it seems that humans prefer other who are unlike themselves (e.g. with an orthagonal immune system), since this will lead to a baby which has the best of both worlds.[9] In recent years, various human bonding theories have been developed described in terms of attachments, ties, bonds, and or affinities.

Some Western authorities disaggregate into two main components, the altruistic and the narcissistic. This view is represented in the works of Scott Peck, whose works in the field of applied psychology explored the definitions of love and evil. Peck maintains that love is a combination of the "concern for the spiritual growth of another", and simple narcissism.[10] In combination, love is an activity, not simply a feeling.

Biology of love

Biological models of sex tend to view love as a mammalian drive,[citation needed] much like hunger or thirst. Helen Fisher, a leading expert in the topic of love, divides the experience of love into three partly-overlapping stages: lust, attraction, and attachment. Lust exposes people to others, romantic attraction encourages people to focus their energy on mating, and attachment involves tolerating the spouse long enough to rear a child into infancy.

Lust is the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes mating, and involves the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen. These effects rarely last more than a few weeks or months. Attraction is the more individualized and romantic desire for a specific candidate for mating, which develops out of lust as commitment to an individual mate forms. Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to side-effects such as an increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years.

Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships. Attachment is the bonding which promotes relationships that last for many years, and even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as marriage and children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared interests. It has been linked to higher levels of the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin than short-term relationships have.

In 2005, Italian scientists at Pavia University found that a protein molecule known as the nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these levels return to as they were after one year. Specifically, four neurotrophin levels, i.e. NGF, BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4, of 58 subjects who had recently fallen in love were compared with levels in a control group who were either single or already engaged in a long-term relationship. The results showed that NGF levels were significantly higher in the subjects in love than as compared to either of the control groups.

Definitions of Love

The definition of love is the subject of considerable debate, enduring speculation and thoughtful introspection. The difficulty of finding a universal definition for love is typically tackled by classifying it into types, such as passionate love, romantic love, and committed love. These types of love can often be generalized into a level of sexual attraction. In common use, love has two primary meanings, the first being an indication of adoration for another person or thing, and the second being a state of relational status. Love is an act of identifying with a person or thing, capable of even including oneself (cf. narcissism; reverence). Dictionaries tend to define love as deep affection or fondness.[1] In colloquial use, according to polled opinion, the most favored definitions of love involve altruism, selflessness, friendship, union, family, and bonding or connecting with another.[6]

Thomas Jay Oord has defined love in various scholarly publications as acting intentionally, in sympathetic response to others (including God), to promote overall well-being. Oord means for his definition to be sufficient for research in ethics, religion, and science.

The different aspects of love can be roughly illustrated by comparing their corollaries and opposites. As a general expression of positive sentiment (a stronger form of like), love is commonly contrasted with hate (or neutral apathy); as a less sexual and more mutual and "pure" form of romantic attachment, love is commonly contrasted with lust; and as an interpersonal relationship with romantic overtones, love is commonly contrasted with friendship, although other connotations of love may be applied to close friendships as well.

The very existence of love is sometimes subject to debate. Some categorically reject the notion as false or meaningless.[citation needed] Others call it a recently-invented abstraction, sometimes dating the "invention" to courtly Europe during or after the Middle Ages.[citation needed] Others maintain that love really exists, and is not an abstraction, but is undefinable, being essentially spiritual or metaphysical in nature.[citation needed] Some psychologists maintain that love is the action of lending one's "boundary" or "self-esteem" to another.[citation needed] Others attempt to define love by applying the definition to everyday life.[citation needed]

Cultural differences make any universal definition of love difficult to establish. Expressions of love may include the love for a soul or mind, the love of laws and organizations, love for a body, love for nature, love of food, love of money, love for learning, love of power, love of fame, love for the respect of others, etc. Different people place varying degrees of importance on the kinds of love they receive. Love is essentially an abstract concept,[citation needed] easier to experience than to explain. Because of the complex and abstract nature of love, discourse on love is commonly reduced to a thought-terminating cliché, and there are a number of common proverbs regarding love, from Virgil's "Love conquers all" to The Beatles' "All you need is love".

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