Thinking about emotion

What is cognition? What is emotion? How are they related? And why do we have so much trouble defining words which we, collectively as human beings and the creators of language, made up in the first place?

The relationship between cognition and emotion has fascinated important thinkers within the Western intellectual tradition. Historically, emotion and cognition have been viewed as largely separate. In the past two decades, however, a growing body of work has pointed to the interdependence between the two …

Whereas there is relative agreement about what constitutes cognition, the same cannot be said about emotion. Some investigators use definitions that incorporate the concepts of drive and motivation: emotions are states elicited by rewards and punishers (Rolls, 2005). Others favor the view that emotions are involved in the conscious (or unconscious) evaluation of events (Arnold, 1960) (i.e., appraisals). Some approaches focus on basic emotions (Ekman, 1992) (e.g., fear, anger), others on an extended set of emotions, including moral ones (Haidt, 2003; Moll et al., 2005) (e.g., pride, envy). Strong evidence also links emotions to the body (Damasio, 1994). Brain structures linked to emotion are often … considered evolutionarily conserved, or primitive …

Because of the inherent difficulty in providing clear definitions for both cognition and emotion, they will not be further defined here … A key conclusion from this review and from other current discussions of the relationship between cognition and emotion is that it is probably counterproductive to try to separate them. Instead, current thinking emphasizes their interdependence in ways that challenge a simple division of labor into separate cognitive and emotional domains.

Cognition and emotion | Scholarpedia