In dual process theory, as repeatedly proposed by evolutionary psychologists for understanding cognition, Type 1 cognition is a rapid, automatic process, often referred to as intuition, and Type 2 cognition consists of reasoning, which is a slower process than Type 1. This theory was popularizedin Nobelist Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) where Type I is thinking fast and Type 2 is thinking slow. Although it has been recognized that Type 2 cognition derives from a cognitive belief system, the CBS, it has only now become recognized that Type1cognition, which is fast and automatic, derives from the emotional belief system, the EBS. In fact, until now, it had not been understood that our emotional system is really a belief system, and that a two belief systems model, consisting of an EBS and a CBS presents a whole new way for understanding psychology and human behavior.
That psychology and human behavior had not earlier been understood on the basis of a two belief systems model is because it had not been recognized that the primary function of emotions, the basis of Type 1 thinking, is to form beliefs. In fact, much about emotions had remained a mystery. Evolutionary psychiatrist and psychologist, Randolph Nesse (2014) recognized that evolutionary psychologists do not agree on why emotions exist, how they are regulated, and, even, how many emotions there are. He has stated that a general theory of emotions is neither necessary nor possible. Presented here, however, are two novel hypotheses that together do explain a general theory of emotions.
1. Emotional feelings are really beliefs.Feelings, according to dictionary definitions and common usage, are: opinions, viewpoints, thoughts, mindsets, beliefs. When we feel that something is true, we believe it to be true. Emotional feelings, are beliefs in the form of affective visceral sensations. It is difficult to grasp the idea that emotional feelings are beliefs because to do so involves bridging two domains: beliefs, which are mental constructs, and emotional feelings, which are affective visceral sensations. The purpose of a belief system is to form beliefs, and the primary purpose of a belief, such as an emotional feeling, is to determine behavior. Emotional feelings determine mammalian behavior emanating from the emotional belief system, the EBS. The more complex the brain, the more that beliefs determine behavior, whereas, the less complex the brain, the more that instincts, which are also naturally selected for, determine behavior. According to triune brain theory (MacLean 1990), reptiles’ instinctual behavior is based in the brain stem and cerebellum, mammals’ emotional behavior is based in the limbic system, and human rational behavior is based in the neocortex.
2. Because natural selection selects for adaptations that increase security, the EBS, like all body systems, is a security system, and that the function of all security systems is to increase security. That an emotional feeling is a belief, whose one purpose is to increase personal security, mandates that there is only one basic emotional feeling: the emotional feeling of security. The emotional feeling of security and its variations are affective feelings (beliefs) that are determined by the state of the subject’s security, with happiness or joy determined by an increase of security, anxiety or fear by a threat to security, and depression or sadness by a loss of security. Emotional feelings motivate behavior. They are automatic responses to personal security concerns. Positive emotional feelings are experienced as pleasurable and desirable, and motivate the subject to seek security; negative emotional feelings are disagreeable and undesirable and motivate the subject to avoid insecurity. Emotions are named after their associated emotional feeling: anxiety, sadness, happiness, anger, etc. And because there is only one basic emotional feeling, the emotional feeling of security, to feel secure is the primary goal of the behavior that derives from the EBS.
Emotional feelings are subjective and personal, so that the feeling of personal security is the core element of an emotional feeling. Although happiness, anxiety, and sadness are basic emotional feelings that recognize an altered state of a person’s security, there are other emotional feelings that, in addition to having a core element of personal security, explain the emotional basis for the altered state of security. For example, anger is an emotional feeling directed at the cause of the loss of, or threat to, security; hate is an emotional feeling of hostility aimed at the source of the threat or cause of the loss of personal security; disgust is a gastro-intestinal antagonistic reaction (It makes me want to throw up.) to a personal security issue.
The reader is probably surprised and skeptical, as I initially was, to find that emotional feelings are beliefs, and that there is only one basic emotional feeling: the emotional feeling of security. This is an epic breakthrough in the understanding of emotions, which, until now, had remained mostly unsettled. Once it became clear that the emotional feeling of security is the basic belief that derives from the emotional belief system (EBS), it readily became apparent that there is a second belief system that had already been recognized: the cognitive belief system (CBS). This led to the understanding that human behavior derives from beliefs that originate from an interaction between the EBS and the CBS. This interaction suggests the following scenario: Belief in the form of the emotional feeling of security initially derives from the EBS in the limbic system and is then modified by CBS’s evidence-based reasoning in the prefrontal cortex to conform to truth or reality. Interactions between the EBS and the CBS determine the beliefs that decide our behaviors, but they also determine our values, worldviews, and cultures.
Both instinctual behaviors that are directly naturally selected for, and volitional behaviors that derive from beliefs that originate in belief systems, have personal security as their goal. Even the goal of evidence-based reasoning, which is the basis of CBS’s beliefs, is to increase personal security. It does so by finding reality. That is, understanding the reality of a situation enhances the ability to recognize threats to security and to devise measures to counter the threats. EBS’s beliefs seek subjective, personal security; CBS’s beliefs, seek universal, objective, reality-based security. EBS’s actions and reactions tend to be emotional; CBS’s rational. We each have two belief systems, which, because of their zero sum relationship for dominance, tend to modify each other’s actions. This explains much of human behavior which a unitary belief system cannot explain.
The EBS is the first of the two belief systems to evolve. It is innate in mammals, is our foundational belief system, and the default belief system that is activated in emergencies. When people’s security is threatened by an external threat, or by an internal threat, such as by the stress of sickness, fatigue, sleep-deprivation, frustration, or time constraint, they react emotionally, with the intensity of the reaction reflecting the perceived severity of the threat.
Emotions have three components: Component1, consists of the emotional feeling of security, which, as described here, is a belief that results in behavior aimed at increasing personal security. Component 2, also consists of behavioral changes such as facial, vocal, and postural expressions, which convey behavioral intent and personal security needs to others. Component 3, consists of physiologic changes, as from increased sympathetic tone or from cortisol and norepinephrine increase, in response to a threat to security.
Beliefs from the EBS in the form of emotional feelings have no correlation with reality; they, instead, correlate with the state of personal security. CBS understandings, however, correlate with reality depending upon which aspect of evidence-based reasoning is used to produce the understanding. If the understood belief is merely a random guess that is not based on evidence or reasoning, there is poor correlation with reality; if it is based on reasoning there is a good correlation with reality, although a drawback with reasoning is the ease by which it can be twisted by rationalizations; and if it is based on evidence (knowing) there is an excellent correlation with reality because evidence determines reality.
All human behavior, including all social interactions, and even play, is security-seeking. Play in humans measures physical and/or intellectual competence and the more competent we are the more secure we feel and the greater our self-esteem. It is the desire for self -esteem that drives our behavior. (Fukuyama 1992) This applies to solving puzzles, to playing a musical instrument, playing card or board games, or playing ball games. Everything we do can be traced to increasing our self-esteem, which results from increasing our feeling of security, as assessed by our EBS.
The reason that we desire to feel secure has been considered (Jaffe 2010) to result from the emotional feeling of security initiating the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, thereby triggering pleasant, affective, emotional feelings from the brain's reward system, the same system that results in opioid addiction. The desire to feel secure is the primary motivator of behavior and even of the desire to live. Feeling secure is a good feeling. Feeling insecure is dreadful. Those, who feel severely depressed, who have lost security and feel very insecure, may lose their will to live, particularly when they recognize that death would release them from the dreadful feeling of insecurity.
Belief in a god provides a coveted feeling of security, and it is to that end that in primitive societies human sacrifices were offered to appease gods. Islamist fundamentalists self-destruct on behalf of Allah, who provides them a feeling of total security. Those, in whom the EBS is their dominant belief system, value, respect, honor, revere, glorify, consider holy, and worship that which makes them feel secure. Theists, whose EBS is dominant, worship God because God makes them feel secure, even when they are not secure: a placebo deception. Placebos, a product of a security paradigm, will be considered next.
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