Our emotions are vital tools in our arsenal of adaptions, ones that we rarely consider or appreciate as a survival mechanism. Some of us might even label emotions as negative or feel they do nothing but get in our way. But from a scientist’s perspective, our emotions are methodic, purposeful, and intelligent.
In the 12 fascinating lectures of Understanding Human Emotions, Professor Lawrence Ian Reed helps us consider emotions from an evolutionary point of view—exploring why we have these consistent feelings and physical responses to specific stimuli in our lives and how they benefit us. That doesn’t mean we feel great when a moment of jealousy pops up or that we should be thrilled to be angry. It does mean that, averaged over the course of evolutionary history, our emotions motivate us to act in ways that best promote our survival and reproduction. Without the full range of our emotions, we simply would not be here.\
Emotions and the Body
In Understanding Human Emotions, you’ll learn about the many bodily functions that are affected by emotions. In addition to the “butterflies in your stomach” and nervous sweating that you might have experienced, you’ll learn about:
- Glucose. The release of cortisol into the bloodstream activates glucose production, which is needed for metabolically expensive actions such as running or fighting.
- Blood flow. Blood flows freely to the hands when we’re angry, in order to prepare us for combat, but it remains in the chest when we’re afraid, to support flight.
- Hunger. No matter how hungry you are, that feeling will evaporate at the sight or smell of food that could be contaminated or harmful, thanks to the protective emotion of disgust.
Cultural Component of Emotions
In this course, you’ll learn about cultural differences in the experience and display of many emotions, including:
- Anger. While public expressions of anger are encouraged in some societies—such as the Ilongot people of the Philippines and the Yanomamo of South America—in other societies, such as the Inuit people of
- North America, anger seems to rarely occur.
- Shame. In Western cultures, shame is seen as damaging and is to be avoided. But in more hierarchically structured societies, shame seems to be more valued, especially when the shame is experienced by a person of lower status.
- Excitement.Some cultures view excitement as a pathway to happiness, while others view it as the road to calmness and serenity.
While the evolutionary and cultural perspectives of emotion do find different expression in different cultures, the two perspectives have much in common, especially the idea that emotions promote cooperation, which is always a critical factor for the survival of a species.
What You’ll Discover in Understanding Human Emotions
1. The Science and Philosophy of Emotions
Men and women have been pondering the definition of emotion for thousands of years. Explore the thoughts of scientists, philosophers, and psychologists from Aristotle to René Descartes, B. F. Skinner to Magda Arnold, and more. Each has added significant concepts to the discussion. But do we have a functionally complete definition, yet? Do we even need one?
2. How Emotions Evolved
Our ancestors had a long list of adaptations to help them survive—facial recognition, mate choice, sleep management, predator vigilance, and much more. But some of those adaptations are mutually exclusive, and how did they know which one to call on in a given circumstance? Explore the phenomenon of natural selection in the development of fear, joy, anger, and disgust as the superordinate programs we rely on today.
3. How the Body and Emotions Influence One Another
Do our emotions originate in the body itself or in the surrounding environment? We know that our autonomic nervous, neuroendocrine, and immune systems are strongly related to our emotions, and we usually think of them as responding to emotions. But if we made changes in those systems, could we create the associated emotions? Learn about the fascinating experiments that have tried to do just that.
4. The Social Purpose of Emotions
Humans are social animals and our best chance of survival comes when we thrive in the social environment. Learn about the affiliative and distancing functions of emotions on our ability to create the social connections necessary for survival. Explore the fascinating games created to test various hypotheses about the effects of emotions on social bonds.
5. Facial Expressions and Nonverbal Behavior
Can you really trust an individual’s outward emotional expression when you’re trying to “read” that person? Explore the fascinating human face, a dual-processing system that can produce both genuine emotional and feigned expressions—from two different neuronal pathways. Discover the possible evolutionary reasons for showing those expressions front and center, on a body part that is so difficult to hide.
6. Self-Conscious Emotions: From Empathy to Shame
Some of our emotions result from an assessment of our own behavior in relation to a particular standard or goal. These evaluative self-conscious emotions include shame, guilt, pride, embarrassment, and hubris. Explore the very detailed and unique physical expressions that tend to accompany these particular emotions—and why.
7. Culture and Emotions
In the Western world, we tend to view our emotions as individualistic; we feel something as a result of our unique body and environment. But for the rest of the world, this idea makes no sense. Most people consider emotions to be interpersonal, and this is the trend among scientists studying emotions now, too. Explore the fascinating ways in which culture affects our concepts, and expression, of emotions.
8. How Children Develop Emotions
We all know that babies do not exhibit the full range of human emotions. Jealousy, pride, shame, guilt, etc. cannot be expressed until later development. But is each baby born with access to the full range of human emotions or are emotional tendencies shaped by family, culture, and peer group? This is one of the central theoretical questions for those who study emotions. Learn about the fascinating theories.
9. The Rational and Moral Sides of Emotions
Throughout the centuries, we have often worshipped the rationality of our cognitive powers. Our emotions, however, have usually been negatively described as irrational. But what if we think our emotions are pointless only because we are in the dark about their goals? Discover why scientists describe emotions as orderly; purposeful; and, yes, intelligent.
10. Emotional Disorders: Anxiety and Depression
While emotional responses are short lived, lasting on a scale of seconds to minutes, and always with an obvious trigger, moods can last days, months, or even a lifetime, and be future-oriented. Explore the mood disorders of anxiety (which can seem unnecessarily excessive) and of depression (which can seem unnecessarily prevalent). How could these disorders have resulted from the process of natural selection?
About the Author:
Lawrence Ian Reed is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University. He received his BS in Psychology and PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, with a dissertation focusing on the effects of guilt on altruistic behavior. He completed his clinical internship at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate.
Lawrence held postdoctoral positions at Harvard Medical School and Harvard University. During this time, he won two Certificates of Excellence and Distinction in Teaching. He has since taught at Skidmore College, Columbia University, and New York University, where he won the Golden Dozen Teaching Award in 2020. He was also included in the Intro to Psychology course created by Outlier.
In addition to his teaching and research, Lawrence is a psychotherapist and holds licenses in Massachusetts, Maine, and New York. He has clinical experience treating clients across many diagnostic categories, age ranges, and ethnicities. He also specializes in treating adolescents and adults with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety; emotional disorders, such as borderline personality disorder; and substance abuse disorders. Many of his treatment methods are drawn from cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and motivational interviewing.
More courses from the same author: Lawrence Ian ReedShare Tool - Group Buy Tools and Premium WordPress From $1