Why have we evolved positive emotions like gratitude, amusement, awe and compassion?
Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, offers a profound study of how emotion is the key to living the good life.
Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology, is a social psychologist who focuses on the prosocial emotions, such as love, sympathy and gratitude, and processes such as teasing and flirtation that enhance bonds.
He has conducted empirical studies in three areas of inquiry. A first looks at the determinant and effects of power, hierarchy and social class. A second in concerned with the morality of everyday life, and how we negotiate moral truths in teasing, gossip, and other reputational matters. A third and primary focus in on the biological and evolutionary basis of the benevolent affects, including compassion, awe, love, gratitude, and laughter and modesty.
Professor Keltner is Co-Director of The Greater Good Science Center.
Affective aspect of consciousness. The emotions are generally understood as representing a synthesis of subjective experience, expressive behaviour, and neurochemical activity. Most researchers hold that they are part of the human evolutionary legacy and serve adaptive ends by adding to general awareness and the facilitation of social communication. Some nonhuman animals are also considered to possess emotions, as first described by Charles Darwin in 1872. An influential early theory of emotion was that proposed independently by William James and Carl Georg Lange (18341900), who held that emotion was a perception of internal physiological reactions to external stimuli. Walter B. Cannon questioned this view and directed attention to the thalamus as a possible source of emotional content. Later researchers have focused on the brain-stem structure known as the reticular formation, which serves to integrate brain activity and may infuse perceptions or actions with emotional valence. Cognitive psychologists have emphasized the role of comparison, matching, appraisal, memory, and attribution in the forming of emotions. All modern theorists agree that emotions influence what people perceive, learn, and remember, and that they play an important part in personality development. Cross-cultural studies have shown that, whereas many emotions are universal, their specific content and manner of expression vary considerably.
That was a very good question. I reluctantly have to agree that burying ones face in a cell phone and texting all the time may not be a good thing for the human condition. But is that all that these people do? I think not. The same question could be asked about video games. But I think this question is pointed in the wrong direction. Are these people who use these devices constantly becoming addicted? That people can get so enured by such simple things such as these devices, alcohol, and drugs is the tragedy.
it's important to understand that using an abstract layer of communication (tech), helps evolve certain "blind" intuitions. where once we could infer the emotions of someone by their faces and gestures, now we are learning to infer them from subtleties such as word usage, the tone of responses, and timing...all 3 of these blind to actual "physical" cues.
i would argue that tech is evolving our senses of perception as we grapple with understanding context in an environment where context is not explicit.
Speaking of devo, here's something interesting I found out a while ago: the idea of "de-evolution" is a biological fallacy. The de-evo myth is based on the assumption that evolution is meant to occur in a positive, singular direction, and any perceived "regression" to previously held ("less-developed") evolutionary traits run counter to that line of progress and therefore are a Bad Thing. In fact, changes that occur due to evolution are just that -- adaptations due to environmental or other circumstance, and nothing more. It's certainly possible, if not highly likely, that technology is affecting our evolutionary development as a species, but from a strictly objective, biological point-of-view, it's a fallacy to assume those changes are negative because some of them can be viewed from our current situation as less "complex."
I haven't figured out how to link in this version of the comment box, but the Wikipedia article on biological devolution is pretty good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_devolution
But words - words are not enough! - Klaus Kinski