The role of emotions in problem solving


What is the purpose of emotion? More elaborately, how do the psychological and neurological mechanisms of emotion underlie a person’s point of view on the world? These were the questions taken up by Philip Gerrans, a professor of philosophy at the University of Adelaide in Australia, in his talk at the Human Mind Conference in Cambridge, England…

The mind, says Gerrans, is hierarchically organized to solve problems. “And what [the mind] likes to do is solve the problem at the lowest possible level.” Emotions, according to this view, serve a dual purpose. First, they alert us to the significance of things in the world. And second, by existing as feeling, they also allow us to solve many problems quickly and without much conscious deliberation.

Thus, Gerrans contends, emotions help to coordinate the mind’s hierarchical problem-solving structure and its engagement with the world. More specifically, “low-level emotional systems direct perception [and] sensation” to extracting the most relevant information from the world. High-level emotional systems manage and reflect on this information.

Gerrans’s talk, like so many others at the Human Mind Conference, seems at first blush to reduce mind to matter, but winds up only reiterating very old philosophical conundrums about whether one can ever be brought fully under the purview of the other.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: What Is the Purpose of Emotion?