Thursday, April 28, 2011

322: The Brain, Shame, Guilt and Pride

Of course we could spend hours debating the exact definitions of the emotions we discuss here. We won't do that and just follow what distinctions are found in scientific literature.

We used a distinction between basic emotions and complex emotions, or in other terms, primary and secondary emotions. So far we have scrutinized the primary emotions.

We looked at them through our Darwinistic glasses. Let's check out what we see through these glasses , when we look at the secondary emotions.

Although we are no definition freaks here, there can be made some clear distinctions between primary and secondary or social emotions.

A first typical difference between the two is, that primary emotions can be experienced individually. I can experience fear, grief or joy all on my own, while secondary emotions need other people, a social context.

We are talking here about the emotions shame, guilt and pride.

A second difference between the two is, that the primary emotions are controlled by the evolutionary older parts of the brain like the amygdala and the limbic system.

The complex emotions mainly reside in the neocortex - the part of the brain which is responsible for our cognitive functions - and more precisely in the prefrontal lobe.

A third difference - and some regard it as the most important one - is that the social emotions are always related to what in philosophy and psychology is called the "Self".

The concept of the Self or Personal Identity is a difficult philosophical subject and we'll save it for later, but it is clear that our awareness of an inner Self requires highly developed cognitive capabilities, like for instance self-reflection.

Sometimes it is suggested that in every complex emotion at least one basic emotion is present, like you can experience joy when you feel proud, or fear when you feel guilty.

There may be cultural influences in basic emotions, of complex emotions it is clear that they are highly influenced by culture.

It is difficult to draw clear demarcation lines between basic and complex emotions like there is a fluent transition from basic almost physical disgust to moral disgust, which is mainly culturally determined.

We'll focus in the next couple of lectures on the complex emotions Shame, Guilt and Pride, which Michael Lewis (1937 - …) called "self aware emotions". They require self-reflection.

Michael Lewis's research has focused on normal and deviant emotional and intellectual development. Through his pioneering efforts in both theory and measurement, he has been one of the leaders in the study of emotional development.

While the causes of basic emotions ( e.g. fear for snakes and spiders) may provoke identical reactions in most people, social emotions work quite differently.

I could feel shame, when someone points at the fact that I "forgot" to inform the income tax about some earnings, while another would feel proud about his getting away with it.

There is another peculiar relation: the relation between secondary or social emotions with obedience. What does that mean?

No society without rules. If we wouldn't follow rules our social world would be a complete chaos. Maybe a kind of Hobbesian world.

To solve the problem of social control evolution has developed a special mechanism. Some call it conscience. We constantly evaluate our behavior

and the result of this permanent evaluation are the feelings of shame, guilt and pride. And this is the advantage of evolution of social emotions: we all have an inner police officer. He watches over our behavior.

The rules and standards are not biologically inherited, but passed on by parents, educators, teachers and so on. It is cultural transmission, but our brain uses them for constant quality surveillance of our actions.

This makes me think….. in an evolutionary sense our basic emotions have served survival of the organisms for millions of year,

while our social emotions, which are closely related with our morality and mainly reside in the prefrontal lobe have an evolutionary much shorter history.

Is this pointing at an explanation why morality is not 100% integrated in the system of the species, like fear?

And that morality sometimes only looks like a thin layer of varnish that is easily broken, so that we are capable to atrocities, genocides, murder, crime and the like? Are we just a fist step in evolution?

The discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: Thank you...
[13:24] herman Bergson: You have the floor..
[13:24] herman Bergson: Feel free if you have any question or remark
[13:25] Doodus Moose: guilt experiences are written deeply within the brain....
[13:25] Doodus Moose: but it seems there is not a similar mechanism for "forgiveness"
[13:25] Doodus Moose: therefore guilt "accumulates"?
[13:25] herman Bergson: INteresting Doodus.....
[13:26] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): the basic emotion don't change much..while the morality changes a lot during the ages
[13:26] herman Bergson: these secondary emotions are closely linked to primary emotions....
[13:26] Clerisse Beeswing: sounds like selfish acts should accumulate too
[13:26] Doodus Moose: perhaps if you feel guilty from being selfish
[13:26] herman Bergson: a thing as forgiveness requires a high involvement of our cognitive is not an emotion...
[13:27] herman Bergson: in guilt there always is an element of fear....
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: aaa that can be true
[13:27] herman Bergson: The fear to be judged by the group on your actions...
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: like " what have i done now ill get shit for this!"
[13:28] herman Bergson: But forgiveness is something completely different...
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: hmm
[13:28] herman Bergson: But on the other also is an essential feeling to keep society going....
[13:29] Clerisse Beeswing: when as children to we develop that fear..what age?
[13:29] Doodus Moose: i'm thinking about "self forgiveness" i guess - some manner to make the guilty memories less "well-written"
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: to forgive is to accept what the one feeling guilty have done and say its ok sort of
[13:29] herman Bergson: But I see no link with basic emotions...
[13:29] herman Bergson: yes...a product of our prefrontal lobe then :-)
[13:29] herman Bergson: You are sentenced to prison for three years...
[13:30] herman Bergson: after that you are accepted as a normal member of the group again...(which you arent of xcourse)...
[13:30] herman Bergson: Serving the sentence would be the forgiveness of the group...
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: hi Jeroen
[13:31] Jeroen Foss: :-)
[13:31] Jeroen Foss: hello
[13:31] Doodus Moose: forgiveness of the group - but the offender still has to live with what he's done
[13:31] herman Bergson: I think here you see a fundamental difference between basic emotions developed in evolution and really cerebral social solutions to situations
[13:32] herman Bergson: Something you don't encounter among social animals...forgiveness...
[13:32] herman Bergson: That is what I mean Doodus....the perpetrator has to live with its stigma..
[13:34] herman Bergson: I think that this makes clear that with a phenomenon of forgiveness we have left the real of evolutionary qualities of the homo sapiens...
[13:34] herman Bergson: And entered the realm of ethics
[13:35] Mick Nerido: Does shame guilt and pride get stronger in more in some societies than others
[13:35] herman Bergson: Oh yes....Mick....
[13:35] Mick Nerido: More developed?
[13:35] herman Bergson: No..culturally determined....
[13:35] Clerisse Beeswing: brainwashing
[13:36] herman Bergson: Pride for Europeans is something completely different form pride for Arabs for instance...
[13:36] Mick Nerido: Like a Japanese committing Hari Kari over guilt
[13:36] herman Bergson: european or American would do that...
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: no
[13:37] Mick Nerido: It is cultural there brains don't look different?
[13:37] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): you mean 'harakiri'?
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: hmm and we also have a very nasty situation with middleast people murdering their daughters for their pride when a 14 year old refuse to marry a 50 year old man that family haven't choosed
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes indeed......Mick...we all have the same brain.....
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: have been lot of such cases in sweden
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: honor murder
[13:38] herman Bergson: But what we regard as standards and moral values.....these are not just evolutionary products...
[13:38] herman Bergson: the cognitive powers are...
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: its complex
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: really complex
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: pride can be good pride can be bad
[13:39] herman Bergson: But it leads to the question...why do people differ of opinion even about basic things of life...
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: depending on how it is defined for a person
[13:39] herman Bergson: and then you are in the midst of the philosophical discourse :-)
[13:39] Clerisse Beeswing: learning and education might have something to do with that
[13:39] Mick Nerido: A mother dieing to protect her child is not cultural
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:40] herman Bergson: Education is indeed a crucial matter in this Clerisse..absolutely
[13:40] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): depends what the education is
[13:40] herman Bergson: But even there starts the philosophical debate ....What should be the content of that education??????
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: yes education should be about actuyal fact otherwise u tend to brainwash people in things that isn't true
[13:41] herman Bergson: Our idea could be...learn them to read and write and let them read what they want and then come up with their own opinion
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: like religious sects
[13:42] Mick Nerido: Didn't Plato say philosophers should rule?
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje..that is what I meant
[13:42] Clerisse Beeswing: right professor
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:43] Clerisse Beeswing: but I am not saying some religious sects are bad
[13:43] Mick Nerido: The writers of the text book decide
[13:43] herman Bergson: another issue Mick..indeed
[13:43] herman Bergson: But notice....
[13:44] herman Bergson: we have moved from evolutionary based emotions and responses into the realm oth the neocortext....the part that makes us so human....makes us think...
[13:44] Doodus Moose: (the part that torments us)
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: i guess
[13:44] Mick Nerido: Good point Doodus
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:45] herman Bergson: What counts here is that you have to keep an eye onhow our basic emotions coontrol our behavior
[13:45] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): can we control our basic emotions?
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes Doodus....In that sense you could follow Sartre..
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: and not just letting it speed away but stop and thing, is tthis the right thing to do?`
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: think
[13:46] herman Bergson: Only to some extend Beertje..fear is fear...and the responses are rpogrammed
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: guess that is how we work basically
[13:46] herman Bergson: we work in a very complex way Bejiita...
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: and what we learn decide how we toggle our instinctive emotions
[13:47] Mick Nerido: I think basic emotions and secondary emotions are like geology what is deep inside is hidden but can cayuse earthquakes
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: what is right wrong sort of
[13:47] herman Bergson: We love to divide it in rational and emotional....but that is such a simplistic look at human behavior and the functioning of the brain
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: thats just the basics i guess
[13:48] herman Bergson: To some extend you are right Mick....
[13:49] herman Bergson: Our basic emotions are faster than our rational responses..
[13:49] Doodus Moose ponders
[13:49] herman Bergson: First there is the fear.....
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:49] herman Bergson: you react...
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: thats why we often act before we think
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: its like a reflex
[13:49] herman Bergson: only afterwards you rationally reconstruct what you did as a response
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: then we stop and "OOOUUUPPPS!"
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: HEHE
[13:50] herman Bergson: the response is not the product of the prefrontal lobe or neocortex....they only may have assisted as brainparts
13:51] herman Bergson: down...^_^
[13:51] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): lol
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: hahaha
[13:51] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): to much fear i guess
[13:51] herman Bergson: 7 left..:-)
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:52] herman Bergson: Well...thank you for your inspiring participation......
[13:52] herman Bergson: before others go down.....Class dismissed :-)
[13:52] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:52] Mick Nerido: Enjoyed the class...
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:52] Clerisse Beeswing: thank you professor
[13:52] Doodus Moose: always, thankful, Professor
[13:52] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: aaa was nice the stuff i snapped up
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:52] herman Bergson: It was a good discussion!
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: really
[13:53] Jerome Ronzales: :(
[13:53] herman Bergson: What troubles you Jerome?
[[13:53] Jerome Ronzales: :P bad timing
[13:54] Ciska Riverstone: read the blogg Jerome
[13:54] herman Bergson: I see...
[13:54] Jerome Ronzales: ok
[13:54] herman Bergson: Dont worry..there always is a next lecture
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: will check that too for the beginning
[13:55] Jerome Ronzales: well its almost impossible to attend all the classes
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: bye all :)
[13:55] herman Bergson: Isn't required Jerome...there always is the blog....
[13:55] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): bye Ciska
[13:55] Doodus Moose: "My brain - that's my second favorite organ" - Woody Allen in Sleeper
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: cu CIska
[13:55] Jerome Ronzales: ok
[13:55] Jerome Ronzales: cya next time
[13:55] herman Bergson: lol..Doodus....
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: aa cu
[13:56] Doodus Moose: feel myself - getting - transparent.......
[13:56] Jerome Ronzales: thats a good one
[13:56] herman Bergson: A lot of men in SL even don't seem to have a second organ
[13:56] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): very true!
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: ㋡

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