Emotions Influence Cognition

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Emotions are a mental and physical state that arise within us in the spur of the moment. There are six basic emotions that we experience: surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness and sadness. When these emotions arise, they can result in psychological changes and can influence our thoughts and behaviors. Emotions especially influence cognition, the mental processes of acquiring knowledge and understanding through different experiences, thoughts and senses. Emotions can influence our cognition in a variety of ways.

The functions of emotion are important to understand in order to see how they can influence cognition. The intrapersonal functions of emotion refers to the role emotion plays on an individual. For example, emotions can help us act quickly without minimal conscious awareness. This is important because we all face different situations everyday that require us to act quickly.

For example, if a mountain lion were to approach somebody on their daily hike, instead of trying to evaluate the situation and decide whether to stay or retrieve, fear, the assumed emotional response that would arise from this situation, would enable us to get rid of that thought process and instead immediately run for our lives. A longer thought process would not allow us to act quickly and that could lead to several adverse consequences. This is an example of emotion influencing our own cognition by simply getting rid of it, or aiding it with an emotional state so that we can in turn act quickly when needed.

Perhaps the most straightforward example of emotion influencing our cognition is simply the fact that emotion influences our thoughts. For example, whenever we are feeling sad, our mind tends to think of other instances where we felt sad as well. We might start to think of memories that made us feel sad such as a loved one dying, or the day a relationship ended. Similarly, when we are feeling happy, our mind also tends to bring up happy memories. Another intrapersonal example of emotional cognition influence is a classic study conducted by Fritz Strack, Leonard L. Martin and Sabine Strepper.

In this study, they investigated the hypothesis that people’s facial expression influences their affective responses. All subjects watched cartoons, half holding a pen with their lips, and half holding the pen with their teeth. The study found that subjects that held the pen with their teeth rated the cartoons as more funny than those that held the pen with their lips. This suggests that a cognitive interpretation of the facial muscles used to hold the pen must have taken place that in turn influenced that emotion.

Emotions can also influence cognition in an interpersonal way. Our emotions are often conveyed to others in a variety of ways, it can be direct through verbal actions or indirect through non verbal acts or facial expressions. These emotions can serve as signals for others. An example of this is infant’s tendency for social referencing, a process in where the decision of how to act in a given situation is made using cues or signals from the environment. In The Visual Cliff experiment, mothers were placed on the far end of what seemed to be a cliff, which of course was just a glass table, the babies were safe. The babies made the decision to crawl towards the end of the cliff based on the mother’s facial expressions. The study found that no baby continued to crawl when the mother’s expression portrayed fear compared to 75% of babies who crossed when the mother’s expression portrayed joy or interest. This implies that other’s portrayal of emotion influences our decision making processes.

Another example that further demonstrates that emotions influence cognition is the two-factor theory proposed by Stanley Schachter and Jerome E. singer. This theory suggests that emotion is based on physiological and cognitive factors. They put the theory to the test by conducting a study in where they injected subjects with epinephrine and told a first group the true effects (feeling nervous, hands shaking, heart racing), told the second group they would experience something false (itchy ears, face numbness, still joints), told the third and fourth group nothing as well with one group being injected with a placebo as a control.

After the injections they placed them in a room with confederates to fill out a questionnaire. The confederates acted either euphoric or angry. In summary, in the anger condition, the group with the false information and the group with no information were angry. The group with no information but a placebo was angry, but not as much as the other two groups, just a little. The group with the true information however, was not angry at all. The same pattern of results was found for the euphoric condition.

The injection obviously had some physiological effects and those who were angry afterwards felt that way because they had no explanation as to why their bodies felt the way they did and were thus more susceptible to the confederate’s display of emotions and therefore cognitively labeled their experience as such. In other words, their bodies were feeling physiological effects to the hormones but they ended up deciding what emotion they were feeling. In this case, emotion definitely influenced cognition and showed that physiological arousal and the cognitive labeling of it go hand in hand.

In conclusion, emotion has the power to influence the mental processes of our knowledge acquisitions. It can be something as simple as memory retrieval based on our current emotional states or something more complex like attributing muscle movements to certain emotions. Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that emotions influence our memories, thoughts, and perceptions. It is a very powerful force that can influence many aspects of our cognition without us even knowing it.

Cite this paper

Emotions Influence Cognition. (2021, Dec 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/emotions-influence-cognition/

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