What Role Do Human Emotions Play?
We are not the rational creatures that we would like to be — we are always and, above all, emotional beings. Most scientists have a hard time with the subject of emotions. Till the last decade of the 20th century, emotion played only a neglected role in scientific discussions and research. Even when discussed, emotion was hidden under the heading “Cognition.” In the past, human emotions have been seen as something inferior (Descartes, 1996 [sic]), have been reduced to physical processes (James, 1884), or have been played off against cognition (Lazarus, 1994). Scientists find it very difficult to describe what emotions are, even when defining basic and secondary emotions (Ekman, 1992). However, newer technology, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have helped brain scientists to understand the role of those parts of the human brain that are responsible for emotional aspects. The emotional system in our brain (limbic system with am