Sunday, July 10, 2005
In the late 80's to early 90's, psychologists and psychiatrists who were not psychodynamically oriented developed a branch known as cognitive therapy. This essentially was an outgrowth of behavioral therapy. Pure behaviorists are fond of pointing out that it was not really new; after all, thinking is just a specialized form of behavior; therefore, cognitive therapy is just a specialized form of behavioral therapy.
It occurs to me that it might make sense to think of emotions and logic in the same way. That is, logic is just a specialized form of emotion.
Or, more precisely, logical thought is just a specialized form of emotional thought. The distinction there being that formal logic -- that which is expressed on paper with axioms and syllogisms -- is not what actually happens in the brain when we think we are thinking logically. Formal logic can be carried out by electronic circuits that use logic gates (AND, OR, NOT, NAND, NOR, and EXOR). It is common to think of neuronal synapses as being analogous to logic gates, but that is a gross oversimplification.
It is true that those thoughts that we think of as emotions generally occur in a different part of the brain, than those thoughts that we think of as logic. But they both are forms of thought, and both take place using the same basic biological apparatus.
If it is true that logical thought is merely a specialized form of emotional thought, then what is the difference, i.e. what is the specialization? Perhaps is is like the difference between a wide-angle lens and a macro (close-up) lens. Emotional thought captures the big picture; logical thought captures the details. It is not as though one is better than the other; rather, the view provided by one is more useful for certain purposes, while the view provided by the other is more useful for other purposes.
For example, consider your reaction to the two symbols: Auschwitz, and motherhood. Trying to use logic to discern the differences between those symbols is a hopeless exercise. It is much more useful to rely upon your emotional response, rather than your logical response. The wide-angle view is the one that is useful. In contrast, consider your response to this pair of symbols: three, and five. Both are prime numbers, both are odd numbers, both are Fibonacci numbers. Both can be counted on the fingers of one hand, assuming your hand has five fingers. A wide-angle view does not really distinguish between the two symbols. For that, you need the close-up view.
This post was inspired by Cyndy's at Mousemusings, which was inspired by Kathy's at Creating Passionate Users.
Categories: armchair musings
Technorati tags: psychology
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I especially like this sentence:
"Emotional thought captures the big picture; logical thought captures the details."
I'm going to have to get the book just to see where it goes.
I'll be curious to hear what you have to say about the book, whenever you get to it.
I will say again that I'm glad that most men I know aren't 'most men'!. Maybe because I don't have patience for 'most men'?
I do wonder though about what many men consider their 'gut reactions', for example, a tendency toward rage and violence in the name of protecting their country or their belongings. They seem to drop all empathy in favor of the 'manly' thing to do. Is that intuition, or a learned response?