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The power of emotions (9 scientific keys)

The power of emotions (9 scientific keys)

May 17, 2024

An emotion is a process through which cognitive and sensory information is transmitted over an external stimulus, from the body's pathways to the spinal cord, forming synapses and stimulating both hormonal secretion and the activity of glands, muscles and tissues.

If we take into account only the previous definition we can think that it is a completely individual process or experience; nevertheless, emotions are also relational phenomena, insofar as they are loaded with cultural meanings that allow us to act and interact in certain ways.

In relation to this and elaborating a journey that goes from the facial expression to the social functions, going through the cognitive functions; in this article we will see 10 scientific keys about the power of emotions .

  • Related article: "The 8 types of emotions (classification and description)"

The power of emotions in 10 scientific keys

These are some of the key ideas that help to understand the importance of emotions.

1. Body postures and facial recognition

Emotions shape our bodily postures, are reflected in our gestures in our way of speaking, sitting, walking and addressing others. We can easily distinguish if someone feels nervous, sad, angry, happy, and so on.

One of the most influential and recent theories about emotions in relation to facial expression , has been that of Paul Ekman, who in addition to making different contributions on basic emotions, perfected the system of facial coding developed in Sweden, which allowed to recognize different emotions through involuntary movements of the facial muscles, eye and head.

  • You may be interested: "Paul Ekman and the study of microexpressions"

2. Adaptive and evolutive character

Among other things, the theory of basic emotions has suggested that there is a certain number of emotions that we experience in order to respond adequately or adaptively to certain stimuli. From this perspective emotions are understood as neuropsychological phenomena that motivate or facilitate adaptive behaviors .

3. Conduct and decision making

From the above, a behavioral perspective of emotions is also inferred, from which we understand that emotion itself functions as a consequence, positive or negative, that allows us to discriminate between what behaviors to reproduce and under what circumstances.

In other words, experiencing certain emotions at certain times it allows us to modify our behaviors in the medium and long term ; according to whether the emotion experienced has been pleasant or unpleasant.

4. Reasoning and thinking schemes

Emotions also allow us to elaborate processing and thought schemes, which in turn display a set of action possibilities. In other words, emotions predispose us to action and allow us to generate attitudes, conclusions, projects, plans and decisions. They also facilitate the process of consolidation of memory and attention, so they have an important role in cognition.

5. Conduct teaching-learning processes

In relation to the above, one of the central functions of emotions, which has been specially studied and disseminated in recent years, is the possibility of facilitating teaching-learning processes through experiences with emotional charge.

For example, says neuroscientist Francisco Mora that the brain learns through emotion . In other words, without the presence of emotions, there are no basic elements of the learning process, such as curiosity, attention and memory. The same researcher has invited to explore and stimulate the above from the early school stages.

6. Cognitive-emotional processes and somatization

Something that the study of emotions has made evident is the relationship between mood and somatic activity . In this sense, the subject of somatization (how emotions can generate important organic discomforts) has been widely studied. Among other things, neurophysiology has proposed that clinical somatization is directly related to a specific activity of the central nervous system; specifically the amygdala, the cortex of the cingulum and the prefrontal areas.

7. Regulators of social relations

A part of sociology has proposed for several decades now that emotions also function as social regulators. For example, it has been studied how annoyance, guilt, shame, sympathy make possible a certain interaction.

They allow us, among other things, negotiate and reflect on the behaviors that we can repeat or not in every social situation.In the same sense, through emotions we generate frames of cognitive and affective identification that allow us to interact with others,

8. Social norms and subjectivities

In the psychosocial field we can see that emotions mark agency (possibilities of action in certain contexts), as well as desires and subjectivities modes.

Through emotions we deploy mechanisms of control and surveillance of ourselves and others, which allow us to feel and behave in a socially recognized way as appropriate . Societies in our time define individuals according to the emotions they experience or manifest.

9. Reproduction and social change

Generally, emotions correspond to the dominant values ​​of a society and a specific moment. For example we can recognize more or less emotional subjects, and certain emotions are allowed in according to whether it's women, men, boys, girls .

However, although through emotions we reproduce social norms and power relations, emotional appropriation does not occur passively but rather reflexively: it helps to resolve contradictions and act in correspondence with what is expected of each one. For this reason, emotions have the potential to be both social re-producers and processes of change.

Bibliographic references:

  • Castaingts, J. (2017). Symbolic anthropology of emotions and neuroscience. Alterities, 27 (53): 23-33.
  • Maneiro, E. (2017). Neuroscience and emotions: new possibilities in the study of political behavior. RIPS, 16 (1): 169-188.
  • López, J. (2013). Francisco Mora "Learning and memorizing shapes our brain". The cultural Retrieved July 20, 2018. Available at //
  • Sánchez-García, M. (2013). Psychological processes in somatization: emotion as a process. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 13 (2): 255-270.
  • Gil Juárez, A. (2002). Approach to a theory of affectivity. Athenea Digital, 1. Retrieved July 20, 2018. Available at //
  • Bericat, E. (2000). The sociology of emotion and emotion of sociology. Papers 62: 145-176.

The science of emotions: Jaak Panksepp at TEDxRainier (May 2024).

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