What Emotions Do for You

Emotions Motivate (and Organize) Us for Action

  • Emotions motivate our behavior. Emotions prepare us for action.
    • The action urge of specific emotions is often “hard-wired” in biology.
  • Emotions save time in getting us to act in important situations.
    • Emotions can be especially important when we don’t have time to think things through.
  • Strong emotions help us overcome obstacles—in our minds and in the environment.

Emotions Communicate to (and Influence) Others

  • Facial expressions are hard-wired aspects of emotions.
    • Facial expressions communicate faster than words.
  • Our body language and voice tone can also be hard-wired.
    • Like it or not, they also communicate our emotions to others.
  • When it is important to communicate to others, or send them a message, it can be very hard to change our emotions.
  • Whether we intend it or not, our communication of emotions influences others.

Emotions Communicate to Ourselves

  • Emotional reactions can give us important information about a situation.
    • Emotions can be signals or alarms that something is happening.
  • Gut feelings can be like intuition—a response to something important about the situation.
    • This can be helpful if our emotions get us to check out the facts.
  • Caution: Sometimes we treat emotions as if they are facts about the world: The stronger the emotion, the stronger our belief that the emotion is based on fact. (Examples: “If I feel unsure, I am incompetent,” “If I get lonely when left alone, I shouldn’t be left alone,” “If I feel confident about something, it is right,” “If I’m afraid, there must be danger,” “I love him, so he must be OK.”)
  • If we assume that our emotions represent facts about the world, we may use them to justify our thoughts or our actions. This can be trouble if our emotions get us to ignore the facts.