• Question: why do we feel emotions

    Asked by anon-290076 to David on 27 Mar 2021.
    • Photo: David McGonigle

      David McGonigle answered on 26 Mar 2021:

      Hi best! Wow – well, personally, I have no idea about the ‘why’! It’s almost like saying ‘why is water wet’ and ‘why do I experience ‘red’ when I see a certain colour in the world’. ‘Why’ is a tough one, particularly with the brain – but I can say a little about what emotions do, and perhaps their use for us! Most work in emotion focuses on studying the behaviour and decisions of humans and animals in certain situations. It might seem a bit basic, but we need to rely on observation – we can’t feel what a certain animal/human is feeling at any time, so we study what they do! We share a lot of basic emotion with more ‘basic’ animals: if you have a pet, I’m sure you know when they’re happy, upset, fearful, angry, etc. But humans have a more complex emotional system, perhaps to do with the fact that we have a brain that is very good at remembering what we’ve done in the past, and using it to plan for the future. Your cat may be scared at a dog in the street, and show certain fear and aggression behaviours: tail up, back arched, fur all fluffed up! But your cat doesn’t have to think about how to study for an exam in a month, or how upset it was when a friend was mean to it – so perhaps emotions, and particularly these more complex, almost abstract ones, are just part of the price we pay for being human! Have a good easter, dave