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Heather Zimmie
Dr. Rand
UWRT 1103
November 11, 2014

Emotions as a Guide

Blaise Pascal said, The heart has reasons the mind knows not of and while we know
that emotions do not literally come from the heart we know that humans are emotional beings
(Pham 360). Unlike animals that are solely emotional beings, we are also cognitive beings. We
have the ability to make conscious judgments using the knowledge that we have obtained over
the course of our lifetime but we still fall prey to our own emotions. If we have the choice to
think rationally over emotionally why do people act emotionally?
Feelings tell us what supports our survival and what detracts from our survival
(Panksepp). They are there to get our attention and produce a response. Feelings are extremely
helpful in creating responses because they are are unconscious, uncontrollable, and quickly
perceived. They help us engage with other people and the world.
So far, all that has given colour to existence still lacks a history, is a famous quote from
Friedrich Nietzsches The Gay Science. Everyone that has ever lived has experienced emotions;
we express them through our words and actions every day. I ask the question of why people act
emotionally because the historical background on emotions is scarce. Nietzsche said, Can you
nd a history of love, of avarice, of envy, of conscience, of piety, of cruelty? And if we were to
nd such a history, what would it look like? (qtd. in Sullivan). The history of emotions is found

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through literature, art, music, religion, historical events, philosophy, and theatre (History of
Emotions). In reading past writings we are able to experience the authors happiness, sorrow,
love, and contempt. Theatre was used to make these writings real for others to experience. In
Shakespearean literature we find out that he warned against emotions or the passions and said
that they could hurt us not only mentally but also physically. Religion on the other hand
promotes emotion especially to show faith and commitment to God (Sullivan 100). Only recently
have we begun to look more into emotions and how they were understood and expressed in the
past.
I think that the reason we do not try to learn more about our emotions is because
everyone has them. Why should we study something that everyone is familiar with or something
that we feel like we cannot control? We assume that we know why we are acting emotionally
such as being tired because were hungry or sad because of a break up but there is also
something that is making us act on emotional impulses and that is what I am trying to find out.
Learning about why people act emotionally is important because we are always dealing
with others. Emotions help us convey messages through body language and facial expressions.
They can be our greatest allies or our worst enemies. Emotional intelligence is required to lead a
healthy life. We have to know how to express ourselves in order to function, interact with each
other, and create relationships. My passion for the medical field and sciences drives my interest
in emotions because as a future healthcare professional I am expected to be able to empathize
with a patient and provide them with support. I cannot accomplish this if I do not understand
how emotions work or what causes them.
While there is not a lot of historical information about emotions we do have a lot of
information on the biological theories of emotions and where they come from in our bodies. We

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know that emotions come from the brain as opposed to the popular idea that we feel love or
passion in our hearts or other parts of our body such as sexual organs. I find this interesting
because it is hard for me to believe that the brain and the nervous system could be responsible for
all of the things that I think and feel. We research emotions for a lot of reasons but in the
healthcare field we want to see what parts of the brain they are coming from, how that makes our
bodies respond, and how we can utilize communication, medicine, or therapy to strengthen or
weaken those responses in the body.
The limbic system and the autonomic nervous system are the main areas of the brain that
control our emotions. The hypothalamus controls physiological sensations such as hunger, thirst,
response to pain, levels of pleasure, sexual satisfaction, anger and aggressive behavior and sends
signals to the autonomic nervous system to create responses in the body relating to pulse rate,
blood pressure, breathing, and arousal. The hippocampus is responsible for taking short-term
memories and creating them into long-term memories. Memories that do not come with an
emotional response are not likely to stay in the long-term memory. The amygdala creates anger,
fear, and sexual responses (Amaral).
Using the biological information of what goes on in the brain, many psychologists have
theorized what outside forces can change or manipulate the responses. Emotions are important in
psychology because they have a part in learning, memory, sensation and perception, thinking,
and health. Some psychologists think we are prewired to respond in certain ways because of
natural tendencies but how does that explain the evolution of our wants and needs? Many think
that emotions help us make decisions but how do we explain why are we not always happy with
our decisions? Others think that we are searching for stimulation but how does that explain why
some people mindlessly watch Netflix all day?

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The feelings-as-information hypothesis by Michel Pham says that our emotions are
logical and are used to help us make judgments and decisions. Many people would disagree and
say that there is nothing logical about emotions because often we cannot explain why we feel the
way we do. It is widely held in many academic circles that feelings, and emotions are mostly
detrimental to sound judgments and decisions (360). The prejudice against feelings and emotions
in judgments and decisions has deep and ancient roots from the Cartesian belief that the mind
and body can be separated and that is the same view most of us hold about emotions today
(Pham 360).
Nico Frijda believed that emotions are responses that create action tendencies. Action
tendencies are states of readiness to execute an action to modify a situation (Frijda). They are
there to start, to continue, or to stop something. They have an aim and they can last for any
duration. Another term that Frijda uses is emotional appraisals. Emotional appraisals are what
come prior to action readiness; they create the urge for action and emotion. If there is no
appraisal, there is no urge for action, and no emotion (Frijda). These two things depend on the
concerns, goals, sensitivities, interests, and values of the person experiencing the emotion and
they ultimately make the decision of what happens next. This relates closely to Phams theory
that emotions influence judgment.
Psychologists Clark Hull and Sigmund Freud believed that emotions were a way to create
homeostasis within the body. Tension motivates us and we need to relieve it in order to find
balance. Tension can come from primary drives such as physical needs or acquired drives such
as learned desires. I do not agree with Hulls tension assumption because I do not feel like we
ever come to a resting state. There are too many things going on in the lives and minds of
humans to be able to find a lasting balance.

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Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that humans needed more than just survival and
balance. He believed that self-actualization was an important aspect of human emotions. It is
what separates us from animals and motivates us to become greater. His theory is depicted in the
popular image of the hierarchy of needs. This includes physiological needs, safety needs, love
and belonging, esteem needs, and self-actualization. He says that some of our needs can become
more important to us than the need for survival. I can attest to that because I have seen people
who would rather have an iPhone than a meal on the table or would rather pursue an acting
career than have a home to sleep in.
All of these theories stick to the assumption that emotions are caused by motivations such
as needs, drives, and incentives. We use these motives as a guide to help us make decisions about
the situations we are presented with and how to reach what we are seeking. Our emotions
determine how we see it and how we react. Some emotions will make us more certain about
decisions while others will make us hesitant. They decide what is to blame when we are happy or
unhappy with the turnout of an event.
If we did not feel excited when we saw someone we liked would we know that we like
them? If we did not have fear in a dangerous situation would we know that we needed to find a
way out? If we did not mourn when a loved one died would we fully understand their passing?
The answer to these questions are no. Our emotional actions help us understand who we are and
what is going on the world around us and without them life would be empty and meaningless.
So why do we act emotionally? Because emotions are the guides to all of the conscious
and unconscious decisions that we make every day. They tell us what we like and do not like,
alert us when there is danger, and help us get the things that we want and need. In my initial
inquiry question I asked, Why do people still act emotionally if we have the ability to think

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rationally? I have now discovered that our emotions are part of the cognition and rationalization
that goes on in our brain. I had originally thought that emotions prevented us from thinking
logically but now I know that they are there to aid in the upkeep of our mental and physical
health. Without emotions we are robots and robots are incapable of making decisions on their
own.
As I stated previously, emotions are our greatest allies and worst enemies. We have to
know when to and when not to listen to them. Sometimes we look back and wonder why we
made certain judgments but it is important to understand that when we are in need there is no
time to come to a thought out, rational decision. This is a part of emotional intelligence. We have
to find positive ways to express ourselves even when we are feeling negative emotions to keep us
from doing negative things that can cause harm to ourselves or other people. When immediate
attention is not required I would encourage taking a second to think about your decisions and if
what you are about to do is based on the current emotion you are experiencing or what you
actually think is the best option in the situation. Many times all it takes is a few minutes to cool
down from anger or cheer up from crying and when people act to fast they tend to make rash
decisions.
Emotions are not the answer to all of our problems but they are used as a guide to help us
solve most of them. They help us make decisions when we are unsure or in desperate need by
reminding us of our preferences and feelings and producing a response. The how-do-I-feelabout-it question that most of us dread answering is not as silly as it may seem (Pham 361). It
helps us discover where our emotions are stemming from and other factors that may contribute
so that we can solve our conflicts. Emotions are a part of our animal instincts that will change
but never go away.

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Works Cited
Amaral, Jlio. Limbic System: The Center of Emotions. n.p. n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.
Artsat Birmingham. Erin Sullivan History of the Emotions. Online video clip. YouTube.
YouTube, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
Darwin, Charles. The Expression of the Emotion in Man and Animals. London: John Murray,
1872. Print.
History of Emotions. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence, n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2014.
Pham, Michel. The Logic of Feeling. Journal of Consumer Psychology 14.4 (2004): 360-369.
JSTOR. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Rathus, Spencer. Psychology: Concepts and Connections. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.
Scarantino, Andrea. Nico Frijda: War, Love, and Emotions as States of Action Readiness,
Emotion Researcher. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
Sullivan, Erin. "The History of the Emotions: Past, Present, and Future. Cultural History 2013:
93-102. Print.
Tedx Talks. The science of emotions: Jaak Panksepp at TEDxRainier. Online Video
Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 8 Nov. 2014.

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Reflection
1. What was the most interesting thing you learned in this inquiry process?
The most interesting thing I learned in the inquiry process was the answer to my big question.
From talking in class about the inquiry project I did not think we would actually be able to
answer our questions because many of them were random questions and not something I thought
others would have researched. I was pleased when I discovered the answer to my question about
half way through my paper. Another interesting thing I learned was the difference between a
research paper and an inquiry paper. I have been writing research papers all of my life and I
thought that the inquiry paper was an interesting way to talk about something we researched. An
inquiry paper is much more substantive because it is something that we want to learn about and
not just the regurgitation of information.

2. What did you struggle with during the research and/or writing process? How did you
overcome this obstacle?
In my research process I struggled to find relevant and similar information. Whenever I searched
I found a multitude of advice or random articles such as how emotions can lead to weight gain,
lists of different emotions, how to cope with emotions, how your emotions can get you cash, etc.
I overcame this obstacle by finding textbooks from previous classes and searching for research
done by scientists, psychologists, and sociologists. Along with research struggles I had writing
struggles. Not having a concrete answer given to my question made it hard to write about and
take a stance/talk about what I believe is the answer. I had a hard time trying to find something
that all of my sources had in common in regard to my question.

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3. Did your inquiry question change over time? If so, how did it change, and why do you
think it changed?
My inquiry question changed when I found out the answer to it. I had first asked why people act
emotionally when they have the option to think cognitively but towards the end of my research
and my paper I realized that we use emotions to make rational decisions. I thought that emotions
were simply feelings that we experience and did not realize that they create the actions that we
take because of those feelings.

4. Why is it important to look at a historical view of your topic/question?


Even though there is not currently much historical information about my topic it is important to
look at the historical view of the topic we are questioning because we need to find out what other
people thought about the same thing. We need to see how things have changed over time and see
what we can add from our experience. Historical views can help us reformulate our questions
and tell us where we need to look to find our answers. Using historical information I was able to
find out that emotions were the main focus of a lot of older writing and religion. With this
information I could add new keywords for my search.

5. Do you think your analytical/evaluation skills have changed as a result of the inquiry
project? If so, how?
I think my analytical skills have changed as a result of the inquiry project because normally I
would not have been able to take a stance. It was surprising to me that I did not agree with all of
the sources that I used even though they were popular and accepted theories. I also learned how

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to supported the piece of information that was my answer with thoughts and ideas that I gained
from research and personal experiences.

6. What are you most proud of in this process?


I am most proud being able to write my paper in first person while also maintaining the sound of
a research paper. Most of my papers are written very formally and it was a challenge to use my
own thoughts and talk about why I am interested in the subject and the process of writing my
inquiry paper. I always enjoy reading other students papers when they are written as a narrative
because it feels more personal and I think that I am beginning to be able to do that with my
writing.

7. What more would you like to know about this subject?


I learned a lot about emotions from writing this paper because of the amount of research I did to
be able to answer my question. Now that I know why we act emotionally I would like to learn
more about why people respond in different ways to the same stimuli. Some people will get
angry over nothing while others seem to have endless patience and I want to know what makes
that difference. I like that I am coming out of this paper with the answer to my big question and
asking even more questions.