The Laws of Emotion – 1

Most of us might have heard about Newton’s laws of motion. When we hear about the laws of emotion it might give a weird kind of a feeling – the main reason being that the emotions are the most idiosyncratic entity for any living being. So the general question we might get is how can we have laws on emotion. The answer for this questions is given by one of the most well-known researcher in the area of emotions – Nico Frijda

According to Frijda although emotions are more individualistic in nature there is a general underlying rule for emotions based on the events a living being might encounter. This underlying phenomena might be overridden by our own inhibitions for various reasons/factors consciously or in the sub-conscious state.

Frijda states nine laws of emotions we will take up the first two for our discussion in this post.

The Law of Situational Meaning

The first law states that not the meaning but the situational meaning is very important. The situational meaning of the event here refers to the full spatial and temporal context in which a specific event happened. Hence the main reason for an emotion to occur is not the event as such but the meaning he/she gets out of it when he/she is in some specific situation. This law may not be very evident because more often it is overridden by controls/factors such as social, cultural, spiritual and so on either consciously or unconsciously. This law might be very much evident if person suffers from some illness or the person is already in some motivational states like hunger, thirsty and so on. Under “ideal/normal” circumstances the law of situational meaning will be more evident. Very good example for this is “someone falling in love”.

The Law of Concern

The counterpart of the law of situational meaning is the law of concern. Emotions arise only when the event is of some importance to the person. It should be of concern either in a positive or in the negative way. If the concern is a positive one, i.e., for example, it exceeds the expectations of a person then he/she gets into a positive emotion. Likewise if the concern is a negative one, i.e., for example, a person lost his dear one, he/she gets into a negative emotion. Also note that this can lead to mixed emotions also – concerned person can get into both positive and negative emotions also. For example, a person gets a good job outside the country he/she may get into both positive and negative emotions. Positive because he/she was successful and negative because he/she has to leave the country leaving the near and dear ones. This is a very simple example to show the evidence of mixed emotions but in reality there can be much complex situations/concerns where person can get into a conflict/dilemma of what to select. The concern arises mainly because of expectations, goals and ambitions.

To be continued…

PS: The comments given above are all my takes on the book The Laws of Emotion by N. Frijda. If you feel something is wrong please correct me.

Emotion and Reasoning

We are familiar with emotions. We are familiar with reasoning as well. What is the connection between the two? Are they related? If yes, how closely are they related? Isn’t it interesting to think this way?

Even though they seem to be completely different things, they share a wonderful relationship.

Have you thought why our emotions are different when an accident happens to a stranger compared to when an accident happens to our dear one?

In the second case, the dear one is more relevant to us. Hence any mishaps to the dear one are also more relevant to us.

Here we can see the role of reasoning in emotion. Before an emotion is onset, so many factors are considered and reasoned. In this example, when we witness an accident, our mind picks up a lot of information about the accident. It checks whether the event (in this case, accident) is relevant to us or not; if yes, how good or bad is it for our survival, etc. Now, our own situation is considered like what is the level of the resources (like physical energy, possibility for help, self-confidence, etc.) available in us. According to our own state and the nature of the event, it is decided how much active we should become and how much should we be defensive, aggressive, etc. This decides on our emotional state. Of course this reasoning can happen both consciously and subconsciously. Anyway, here we can see that emotional process uses reasoning as a tool to decide on the emotional state.

Similarly, there is a role for emotion in reasoning as well. Reasoning is always dependent on the emotional state when it is done. For example, your friend would react in different ways if you mock him when he is happy compared to you mocking him when he is angry.  This shows the difference in his reasoning under the influence of different emotions. Another influence emotion has on reasoning is through goal management. Here, the word goal means aim – the thing that we want to do. Emotion has a big role in deciding or managing our goals. The best example is revenge. A person takes revenge because of his anger, sadness, frustration, etc. Here, these emotions set a goal in the person’s mind to harm the other person involved. Now, his entire reasoning is with respect to this goal. Hence emotion influences the way we do reasoning.

We can see that emotions and reasoning are interlinked and interlaced. They support each other, they complement each other; sometimes they also oppose each other. All these happen at different levels of reasoning and emotions. Isn’t that a beautiful relationship?