Thursday, October 25, 2007

Emotion and logic.

Some people either praise emotion or logic at 100%. They totally despise the opposite side of what they praise. But do they understand that the side they hate is also inside them?

A father desperately cries: "You SHOULD be logical!". Yet, it's the emotion that drives him at the exact time to shout with so much anger to his son for an action/thought that seems "illogical" to his view. He is totally emotional inside yet he speaks about logic. For the son, his father is illogical when he doesn't pay attention to his son's emotions. Yet he preaches about logic. Is "logic" about "doing the only good thing" to them? THEIR good thing of course, not everyone's. THAT good thing is constructed upon their past experiences, memories, emotions and just about everything. So emotion comes again in the play.

Emotion comes from the word motion. A human brain with just logic would be like a senseless zombie. Motivation zero. What about a brain without logic and only emotion? I think logic comes from our great will (will=motivation=emotion) to explain everything around us. I think emotion is a more primitive function in the brain, meaning that it came before logic in the evolution. Yet there is an important connection between the two that makes us what we are. People talk about purely "logical" functions yet in order to be motivated to solve maths or code computer programms someone needs to be motivated. Emotion is the gas and logic the means.

So, it already sounds naive to me when someone overpraises either of them as if they don't use both already. Maybe they are just talking about quantities, like saying that someone needs to be more emotional than logical or the opposite. Yet, the scale either depends on the situation or everyone's needs. I can't be always 100% logical (whatever that means) nor would I blame a girl for being overemotional if it works this way for her.

Yet imagine how emotional are some situations that imply logic. How emotional does someone sound himself who overreacts at you for acting emotionally! What a funny contradiction :)

And yet some place for another contradiction. The question is: Are emotions good? Are they bad? What about logic?

A better question would be: "When are emotions/logic a good or bad idea?"

I guess it still depends on the situation. Yet it also depends on the person imho. You could say that in a specific situation one of the two is the answer. Or even a certain percentage of each. This could still change depending on the person involved. Some parents use specific ways to treat their children, though the same ways could have different results on each individual. It's not that right to say that there is a single method here that works for every child.

Recently, I have spoken the exact words to myself: "Your feelings deceive you.". Sometimes emotions are like an electric chair torture. Something in your past forces you to receive negative feelings when being brought in the situation A. Emotion A says "I don't like situation A. It's bad! Baaddddd!!! You hear me? BAD!" and makes you feel guilty about it. But something inside you tells you that it's not logical to despise situation A. Situation A is good for you and everyone else, so why should you be restricted? But then emotion comes first and even if you have declared a logical idea that says that situation A is good and you shouldn't have negative feelings about it, you still get'em. It's like someone sadistically presses the button to charge your body with electricity each time your mind speaks of situation A! It never stops..

Yet, did your logic saved you here? I said that it's something inside you that helped you make the distinction that you have feelings that deceive you about situation A. "Something inside you". What? Logic? Or.. desire. The desire to be free from emotions that restrict you without any good reason. Something inside "moves" you (desire), let's say the emotion B that tells you "I don't wanna be restricted!!! Use your logic to proove that the situation A is accepted. Please!". Still, the emotion B (the urge to accept situation A despite the emotion A against it) drove you to seek for a logical solution to this problem. Emotion B fired a spark of doubt about the validity of emotion A and logic just served this request.

Now look how complex it gets! Could someone now easilly say that emotion is stupid or logic too strict? Oh come on..

My favorite example on this rant is sex. Isn't it the most logical sounding thing in the world that sex is something natural and there is nothing bad about it? Then why does our emotion order us to feel shy about sex? At that point, another emotion oblidges us to use our logic and think this is stupid! That is emotion B. And this is not where it ends. Diferrent people create a diferrent set of logical arguments for the situation A problem (the sex). Some people try to logicaly explain that emotion A is right, each one following their own logical path. And of course others would follow their logical paths to explain that emotion A is wrong.

Actually,. here is a point where I made a mistake that could lead to a dead end. I'd like to mention this one before closing. It's not the emotion A that is wrong rather than what brought it in the first place. Another way to view this is: "Situation A is right. It doesn't mean that because the emotion A is right then Situation A is wrong. I could logically think that sex is ok and act based on my logic in this matter, no matter if my feelings disagree. It's electricity that sometimes deceive me and sometimes motivate me for the better afterall. That's a different way to think this whole matter..

Actually, it all depends on our interpretation of emotions. Emotions do exist in any one of us and logic is our means to explain them. When I say that some emotions deceive, maybe it's just the wrong interpretation of them that does so.

I was motivated to write these random thoughts by using logic, purely inspired by my emotions..


Någon said...

Your analysis of emotions is interesting. It made me think about it and maybe you will find my personal conclusions useful:

I would classify the things that you have described into three categories:

* emotions
* built-in behaviour
* conscious behaviour

I don't know whether the above are valid psychological terms to describe what I mean by them. I just use them "internally".

To me emotions are just indicators of the state that the mind is in. Some kind of mode of operation. You can feel an emotion in response to some input from your environment, body or even conscious part of your mind; unless you consciously control yourself, this emotion makes you behave (express the emotion) in some predefined way that is embedded in your brain. E.g. someone rude may make you angry and in such state you are usually more decisive and likely to show agression if you don't control yourself.

Built-in behaviour is the one you can execute without thinking about it. Your brain is trained to trigger it in response to external events or at will. E.g. activities like walking, writing or speaking usually don't require you to constantly think about them. You only think of what you want to do (go to shop) and not how to do it (lift your leg, push it forward, put it on the ground, and so on).

Conscious behaviour is the one that involves active participation of your consciousness and making decisions. Here goes the logical thinking. If you have no predefined behaviour prepared for a given situation, your consciousness takes over the control and you start thinking how you can accomplish your task.

I can see here very clear analogy with computers. Imagine some virtual machine. Emotions represent state of this machine (its internal variables, etc.). Built-in behaviours are just normal compiled programs. They can be quickly loaded from repository and executed. They are expressed in native language of your VM and thus execute very fast. Conscious behaviour is something like a compiler that is used by your consciousness. You can devise a program for any given situation but both writing a program (analysing the problem and designing solution), and compiling it (understanding the solution) are terribly slow.

Your consciousness can take control over your body but it requires your will. The difficulty is that your brain gives much higher priority to those built-in behaviours so that if the stimulus is very strong, you have a hard time controlling it. In such situations one often gives in and lets the built-in behaviours execute (especially if the time is short but solution cannot be found fast enough).

My impression is that most people rely on their built-in behaviour whenever possible. They consciously observe their actions, but don't really analyze it or try to take control until they really need to. The main difference between people with and without Asperger Syndrome is that the latter ones have much bigger and more comprehensive set of built-in behaviours and in many situations just act by intuition. Aspies on the other hand have to carefully analyze such situations, devise their own methods to solve them and then learn to do it quickly and efficiently. This, however, is not as simple as it sounds. First of all the process of rational thinking is very time consuming and unreliable. You take first solution that you think has potential and evolve it by thinking it over and over over a long period of time rather than just find a perfect, ultimate solution in a stroke of genius. It is very important to organize your thoughts and store them somewhere so that you don't have to start from scratch every time you think about it. Another problem is that the perfect solution may be not the one you would call the most resonable. That is because you may base your thinking on premises that are not really true and you don't know this because your knowledge is limited. Moreover it is common pitfall to assume that all the others are acting in the most reasonable way they can, because they know it's best for them. To the contrary - people rarely take the effort to fully understand the situation they are in, and prefer to use some well established patterns. Why? Because it just works... most of the time.
It's just pure evolution in action. No matter how unreasonable it is, if you did something at random and it worked, why spend half of your life trying to understand why it worked? People just do it and behaviour that just works propagates as a successful meme.
The most evident examples are superstitions that seem to be something utterly pointless to anyone that really thinks about what he is doing. e.g. There is a superstition in my country that walking between two people on the street brings one bad luck. It's ridiculous, but recently I've learned a fact that sheds some light on sources of such behaviour. Recently my friend told me what happened to him not so long ago. It was after dusk and he was heading home after a party. He decided to take a shortcut through the park and while he was in a dark alley, two, seemingly ordinary, people passed him. Next thing he felt was a strong pain at the back of his head and he fell on the ground when one of those people hacked at his legs. He could not easily defend himself because the attacked from both sides simultaneously. Fortunately they only robbed him and did not make any serious harm to him but he will remember that for a long time. Such situation does not happen to everyone and everyday, but when it does happen, it is so vividly remembered that the person may well develop an irrational fear of passing between two people on a street. The person tells the others about this situation and others also start to be careful in such situations to avoid problems. After some time nobody besides the actual victim remembers why they do this, but they remember that following this pattern is important to succeed. That's how superstitions are born. Some people will try to explain this to themselves, but they most likely won't find real cause and will either drop the superstition or will just ignore any doubts and follow it without understanding it. Your behaviour does not need to be logical. If it allows you to do the right choices fast and without much thinking, it will benefit you allowing to spread your genes and create more entities with traits that helped you acquire such successful behavioral patterns.
The conclusion is that while rational thinking is something beautiful and can help people acquire new abilities and compensate for their deficiencies, it's not the thinking itself that leads to evolutionary succeess. The crucial thing is the built-in behaviour and need of socialization. It allows people to acquire new useful experience more effectively. This sometimes leads to inconsistencies and irregularities in behaviour of so called 'normal people'.

Having said that, I must admit that I've heard about Asperger Syndrome for the first time not so long ago, but it perfectly fits to my personality. I haven't been diagnosed by a psychologist but I don't really care about that. The only thing I really need is the understanding. I am trying to bring perfect order to my world, but it's hard. I find your blog posts very interesting and many of them describe the same things that I find in myself.

It seems that my comment ended up being almost as long as your article. It took me more than 4 hours to write it, but to be honest, it would be twice as long if I haven't had discarded the parts that seemed to me not good enough to include here.

Optimus said...

I've read your answer several days ago, read it once again tonight and only now I found the time to reply. I was offline for 2 weeks.

I really appreciate your analysis. It seems you and me are from the kind of people that spend a lot of time analyzing, trying to give order to their ideas, thus writing big texts which most people maybe will be bored to read (but not me). But I can't do else usually, it's harder to just state an opinion shortly, especially trying to argue about it with few simple words instead of a thorough and honest analysis.

Your analysis is an interesting addition to my article. I am trying now to think through that spectrum of view (which seems to me familiar, I must have read of a similar categorization somewhere else) and see how it reflects myself. There is also another point I recently thought that brings some problems in my life that I wish to write about in a next article. I wonder if your own analysis gives now a different solution to my problem. I will first think about it and write later.

Locations of visitors to this page