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Human Emotions Explained

July 19, 2013

Tania Labronzo for NPR:

emotions-caricatures

In some sense we’re all experts in emotion. We experience emotion every day, all the time. We constantly observe the emotional responses of others, and we often make decisions based on anticipated emotions: we pursue something because we think it will make us happy, or avoid something because we worry it will anger someone else.

Despite living intimately with emotion, there’s a lot we don’t know. Sometimes we’re baffled by our own emotional responses, or those of others. Sometimes we wish we could change our emotions, but don’t know how.

And then there are all the questions — beyond these — that occupy psychologists and other scientists. Are emotions universal, or do they vary across individuals and cultures? Do we have unconscious emotions? How do emotions affect judgment? How do emotions change throughout the lifespan?

Let’s face it, emotions are complex and the human mind and body don’t exactly come with an owner’s manual. That’s one reason people are often fascinated by the scientific study of emotion, and one motivation behind a new resource led by June Gruber, assistant professor of psychology at Yale University. The series, available on YouTube, offers over 60 interviews with leading experts in the field of emotion. I asked Gruber what prompted her to start the Experts in Emotion Series:

“Emotions affect us all, and touch our lives every single day. So we often wonder what are emotions, why do we have them in the first place, and how they shape other aspects of our mental lives. Scientists spend countless hours working on these same questions. Yet often there’s a gap between our everyday curiosities and the scientific inquiry about emotion. I wanted to find a way to close this gap – the series is meant to be a bridge between the public and the scientists behind the scenes, to hear not only what experts see as the most pressing questions they tackle in their work, but also where they see the future headed and what got them into doing what they study in the first place.” [More]

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