Thursday, April 14, 2011

318: The Brain, Surprise and already a little Disgust

Behind me you see the facial expression, which is, I guess, familiar to you. Eyes wide open, eyebrows up. In other words complete surprise about what he sees.

This time we are dealing with a simple and pleasant basic emotion: an orchestra conductor, which steers all our actions into one direction:

we need here and now immediate information about our environment, because we are confronted with something unfamiliar and odd. So, eyes wide open and trying to get a good look at it.

We are surprised about something. An emotion, which is hard to study in an experimental laboratory environment and too innocent as an emotion to spend much research effort on.

Yet it is an emotion, which is innate. Babies already are able to be surprised about what they see.

From a philosophical point of view the emotion is also interesting, because all philosophical questions originate from marvel: huh… how can that be? Where does that come from? What is real? And so on.

Often our surprise is accompanied by physiological reactions like taking a deep breath, feeling a shiver. This has lead to the presumption, that there is only a thin line between surprise and fear.

It is indeed a fact, that when the surprising element looks threatening and therefor dangerous, our surprise changes into fear in a split second. A chain of reactions gratefully exploited by horror movies.

But in general surprise is a positive emotion. We love presents. We love new things and above all we are so curious.

From an evolutionary point of view it is understandable, that such a quality, to feel pleased when confronted with new things, is a nice drive to be a curious and exploring individual.

However, it not always gives us a positive feeling. There is that relation between surprise and disbelief: you open the envelope and read the invoice for repairs on your car (What ???!!!!) , or your doctor tells you, that you have only three months to live (No !!!!???).

A simple emotion, but in general focused on getting new information about the subject we are surprised about.

A completely opposite emotion, which stimulates us to get as far away as possible from what we see or smell is disgust.

This , however, is a rather peculiar basic emotion. People all over the world can have this emotion, but as far as we know, you only find this emotion in the repertoire of the homo sapiens.

This could mean that evolutionary this is a rather "young" emotion. Besides that, this emotion is loaded with cultural influences, which makes it hard to identify its function in evolution.

In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin wrote that disgust refers to something revolting.

Disgust is experienced primarily in relation to the sense of taste (either perceived or imagined), and secondarily to anything which causes a similar feeling by sense of smell, touch, or vision.

Paul Ekman (born February 15, 1934) is a psychologist who has been a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. ("Emotions in the Human Face", 1982).

He showed that contrary to the belief of some anthropologists including Margaret Mead, facial expressions of emotion are not culturally determined, but universal across human cultures and thus biological in origin.

Expressions he found to be universal included those indicating anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. And these are the basic emotions we are discussing here, because they are all generated by the brain.

Be prepared for the next lecture, because it will be a disgusting one.

The Discussion

[13:20] herman Bergson: Thank you... :-)
[13:20] Rentboy Benoir: thank you
[13:20] herman Bergson: You had some remarks....I noticed...
[13:21] herman Bergson: curiosity...innate or learned....
[13:21] Rentboy Benoir: so disgust is a conditioned response?
[13:21] Clerisse Beeswing: learned response
[13:21] Athena John: I don't think so. It too is innate. We re repulsed by that which we find, well repulsive
[13:21] herman Bergson: It would be if it were only learned behavior....
[13:21] Rentboy Benoir: hmmmm
[13:22] Rentboy Benoir: the reason i ask is because as i grow older the less things i find disgusting
[13:22] Athena John: I would say SOME of it is. We LEARN to be disgusted by certain crimes for example
[13:22] herman Bergson: Well next lecture we'll go into detail, but disgust is partly an innate behavior
[13:22] Mick Nerido: I thought the link between surpise and fear is, well, surpising
[13:23] Rentboy Benoir: i think that might have to do with our basal instincts
[13:23] herman Bergson: Well it was Ekman who pointed at the possible relation Mick
[13:23] Rentboy Benoir: l fight in this case
[13:24] Rentboy Benoir: if a large predator stalking you jumps out, !) you're surprised 2) fear 3)run!!!!
[13:24] Mick Nerido: The facial expression is close
[13:24] herman Bergson: Bodily reactions look a little similar when you see something new...nice or threatening...
[13:24] herman Bergson: open your eyes wide for instance...
[13:25] Athena John: But Rentboy, in your example, the fear can be trained to be repressed or channeled.
[13:25] herman Bergson: yes Rentboy...something like that....
[13:25] Athena John: Soldiers are trained to repress fear
[13:25] Mick Nerido: Horror movies let us experience fear in a safe place
[13:25] herman Bergson: and if I am not mistaken there are also predators that surprise their victims by special behavior or colors to fool them
[13:26] Rentboy Benoir: i agree, but i was talking about something left over from our basal instincts when we were not as evolved yet
[13:26] Rentboy Benoir: the reaction
[13:26] Rentboy Benoir: the expression
[13:26] Rentboy Benoir: its prolly because of that
[13:26] Rentboy Benoir: you open your eyes to get a better look
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes..there is a similarity...
[13:27] Rentboy Benoir: i bet hearing improves a little too
[13:27] Rentboy Benoir: then you a certain whether its a threat
[13:27] Rentboy Benoir: and then you run for your life
[13:27] Rentboy Benoir: if it is
[13:27] Rentboy Benoir: idk
[13:27] herman Bergson: and you pray that your are fast enough ^_^
[13:27] Rentboy Benoir: lol
[13:27] Rentboy Benoir: hmmm
[13:28] Rentboy Benoir: interesting stuff
[13:28] Mick Nerido: Peditors are more curious than vegetarian animals
[13:28] Rentboy Benoir: i think maybe
[13:28] Rentboy Benoir: the expression the child has is a result of that
[13:28] herman Bergson: I don't know...
[13:28] Rentboy Benoir: obviously its not fear
[13:28] Rentboy Benoir: but it is new
[13:28] herman Bergson: but I once saw a documentary about taming a wild horse,,,
[13:29] Athena John: Is there a gender difference in this part of the brain: surprise/fear?
[13:29] Rentboy Benoir: and i think that new = bad in the cave man era
[13:29] herman Bergson: took only 5 hours , because the animal was curious...
[13:29] Rentboy Benoir: unlikely
[13:29] Rentboy Benoir: emotions are not gender determined
[13:29] Rentboy Benoir: i think
[13:29] herman Bergson: the person played with the curiosity of the wild horse....
[13:29] Athena John: But their bain LOCATION vary by gender
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well Rentboy...
[13:30] Athena John: *brain
[13:30] herman Bergson: research has shown that women and children are more sensible to disgust than men
[13:30] Rentboy Benoir: hmmm
[13:30] Rentboy Benoir: yes
[13:31] Rentboy Benoir: but i still think these are conditioned responses
[13:31] Athena John: We're more sensible ;)
[13:31] Rentboy Benoir: learned
[13:31] Rentboy Benoir: and women are meant to be more disgusted by things than men
[13:31] Rentboy Benoir: its cultural
[13:31] Rentboy Benoir: yet
[13:31] herman Bergson: yes...that is quite well possible....
[13:31] Rentboy Benoir: certain cultures , you'll find hardier women than men
[13:31] herman Bergson: there is a lot of cultural influence with respect to disgust....
[13:31] Athena John: How isthis cultural?
[13:32] Athena John: and why can't I type? lol
[13:32] Rentboy Benoir: amazons
[13:32] Rentboy Benoir: they were tough cookies
[13:32] Rentboy Benoir: a myth maybe
[13:32] Rentboy Benoir: im not sure
[13:32] Rentboy Benoir: lol
[13:32] herman Bergson: Well Xenia was ^_^
[13:32] Athena John: Fighting women exist. :)
[13:32] Mick Nerido: Women bodybuilders
[13:33] Rentboy Benoir: how is it cultural? well, in the west women are conditioned to be more senstive to disgusting things than men
[13:33] Rentboy Benoir: from birth
[13:33] Athena John: Soviet women fought hard in World War 2
[13:33] herman Bergson: As you see...surprise as a basic emotion isnt that complicated....
[13:33] Rentboy Benoir: its what make you all sensitive and all of that good stuff
[13:33] Rentboy Benoir: yeah
[13:33] Rentboy Benoir: russian women are tough
[13:34] Mick Nerido: Comedy is always a surpise like when you laugh at a joke
[13:34] Athena John: As are Japanese, who even now fight for survival
[13:34] herman Bergson: I dont think that the toughness of women is related to either surprise of disgust...
[13:34] Rentboy Benoir: no
[13:34] herman Bergson: although some men find tough women disgusting...especially the bodybuilder types
[13:35] Athena John: Or the warrior types
[13:35] Doodus Moose: (threatening?)
[13:35] herman Bergson: But there you see the influence of culture
[13:35] Clerisse Beeswing: some men do love a girlly girl
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Clerisse :-)
[13:35] herman Bergson: More than tough types
[13:36] Rentboy Benoir: what i meant was that i think that , lets say during war time, what may have seemed disgsting becomes a necessity(spell check) like maybe eating rotten produce, which in turn would prolly make them less disgusted with eating something off
[13:36] Rentboy Benoir: in the future
[13:36] herman Bergson: But I don't think that is a matter of disgust, but just personal preferences
[13:36] Athena John: Good point
[13:36] Mick Nerido: digust in taste can save you from eating poison food
[13:36] Clerisse Beeswing: real life I am in between girlly girl and they must get over it
[13:37] Rentboy Benoir: they get used to it
[13:37] Clerisse Beeswing: when it comes to ever watch andrew zimmerman the guy who easts almost everything
[13:37] Rentboy Benoir: im no longer disgusted by a lot of things
[13:37] Rentboy Benoir: age also plays a role
[13:37] Mick Nerido: I love that show
[13:37] herman Bergson: oh my.....that must be a disgusting sight Clerisse
[13:38] Clerisse Beeswing: he easts bugs and everything
[13:38] Mick Nerido: An acured taste
[13:38] Rentboy Benoir: oh i could eat that
[13:38] Mick Nerido: aquired
[13:38] Clerisse Beeswing: or is he just curious
[13:38] herman Bergson: I'll discuss the basics of disgust in the next lecture....maybe Mr. Zimmerman offers a good example
[13:38] Rentboy Benoir: not for fun though
[13:38] Doodus Moose: MIck - check the local bazaar in China
[13:38] herman Bergson: Eating bugs is just a cultural issue....
[13:39] Rentboy Benoir: i was once in a meat market in kashmir, that was pretty grosss
[13:39] herman Bergson: so it is easy to learn to eat bugs
[13:39] Rentboy Benoir: yes
[13:39] Doodus Moose: precisely
[13:39] Rentboy Benoir: yes
[13:39] Ciska Riverstone: honey ants taste pretty good.
[13:39] herman Bergson: wel....easy.....for some people
[13:39] herman Bergson: For instance Ciska, yes....
[13:39] Clerisse Beeswing: out of survival...well I might have to eat something I would never consider
[13:40] herman Bergson: I have seen that once.....these ants are big bubbles of honey
[13:40] Athena John: Yes in i many cultures, like mine, a delicacy
[13:40] Mick Nerido: Any meat is disgusting to a vegetarian
[13:40] herman Bergson: Well the examples exist Clerisse....canibalism for instance
[13:41] Clerisse Beeswing: well I hope I never have to eat a human in order to survive..not just yet
[13:41] Rentboy Benoir: you see that wouldn't bother me
[13:41] Rentboy Benoir: if they're dead
[13:41] Mick Nerido: Soilent green
[13:41] Rentboy Benoir: its just meat
[13:41] herman Bergson: Not my favorite food either Clerisse ^_^
[13:41] Clerisse Beeswing: lol what a old movie
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Mick...good movie!
[13:42] Mick Nerido: Not good eating lol
[13:42] Rentboy Benoir: apparently human fingers are the tastiest bits
[13:42] Rentboy Benoir: if you ever find yourself in that situation take dibs on the fingers
[13:42] Mick Nerido: People are supposed to taste like pork
[13:42] herman Bergson: You think so Rentboy?
[13:42] Clerisse Beeswing: now don't tell me how you cook them..that would disgust me
[13:42] Athena John: there is not much meat on the fingers
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well Mick some humans behave like pigs well possible indeed
[13:43] Rentboy Benoir: because they are used the most, also its what a group of cannibals said when they were asked by an anthrop.
[13:44] Mick Nerido: Remember Michael Rockafeller?
[13:44] Doodus Moose: oh
[13:44] herman Bergson: Well....I would suggest to look forward to the next lecture and a disgusting discussion afterwards...^_^
[13:44] Rentboy Benoir: ok
[13:44] Rentboy Benoir: lol
[13:44] Mick Nerido: Thanks
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: *smiles* - thank you Professor :)
[13:45] herman Bergson: So thank you all for your surprising contribution to this discussion...:-)
[13:45] Rentboy Benoir: id like to see if im still disgusted by anything
[13:45] herman Bergson: Oh you will be rentboy....easily even...
[13:45] Rentboy Benoir: thank you Herman
[13:45] Clerisse Beeswing: thank you professor..interesting enough
[13:45] Athena John: I'm sure you are. It just must be found
[13:45] Rentboy Benoir: ive seen a lot of things
[13:45] herman Bergson: Not so difficult Athena ^_^
[13:45] Rentboy Benoir: im pretty desensitized
13:46] BALDUR Joubert: i need a old jenever now to digest all your stuff
[13:46] herman Bergson: Cool...
[13:46] Rentboy Benoir: not a good thing btw
[13:46] herman Bergson: Thank you all...
[13:46] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ...
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: ♥ Thank You!! ♥
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: ...DANKE :)))
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: .•:*¨☆¨*:• DANKESCHÖN .•:*¨☆¨*:•
[13:47] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:47] Qwark Allen: just got in time
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes indeed Qwark :-)
[13:47] Qwark Allen: was interesting as allways
[13:47] Qwark Allen: .-)))
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: ______ ()*"*()___
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: _____("(~¸¸~)")___
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: Müde bin ich,geh zur Ruh,
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: mache meine Augen zu.
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: Erst das Rechte,dann das Linke,
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: Gute Nacht und winke winke
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: •´¨*•.¸.♥ Bye Bye ♥.¸.•*¨`•
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: Nacht Anja - träum gut
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: Tschüss machs gut bis zum nächsten Mal
[13:47] Anja Tigerfish: bye
[13:48] herman Bergson: Nacht Anja ^_^
[13:48] Qwark Allen: see you thursday
[13:48] Anja Tigerfish: Namarie
[13:48] Ciska Riverstone: bye qwark
[13:48] Anja Tigerfish: Have all safe paths and fair winds and honey sweet dreams
[13:48] Doodus Moose: Bless you all, as i am blessed by you all
[13:48] Ciska Riverstone: enjoy your evening doodus
[13:48] herman Bergson: bless you Doodus
[13:49] Ciska Riverstone: bye herman :)
[13:49] herman Bergson: Bye
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well..been a long time no see Athena ^_^
[13:51] Athena John: Yes, I haven't had time to come in world.
[13:51] herman Bergson: I understand..

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