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What is emotion?

What are emotions? In this article Mark Solms elaborates on why we have emotions and how some of the basic emotional systems operate.
A close-up shot of an art installation by Pippa Skotnes - depicting complex emotions
© University of Cape Town CC-BY-NC
Your feelings – or emotions – register the state of you. Emotions may be triggered by external events, but they do not register the events themselves, they register your reaction to them – your feelings. Your consciousness feels these emotions, and it motivates you to do things that are biologically good for you and to avoid things that are biologically bad.

The world is more complex than just ‘good’ versus ‘bad’, and we have evolved more subtle responses than just ‘approach’ or ‘withdraw’. There appear to be seven basic emotions that we share with all mammals, and they are all over 200 million years old. We share them, not only in reference to the behaviours and feelings but also to the underlying brain anatomy and chemistries associated with them.

Read this article that explains what emotion is for and elaborates on some of the different kinds of emotion.

© University of Cape Town CC-BY-NC
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