Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On emotions

Nowadays I watch the lectures of Paul Bloom from his intro to psychology course at Yale University. I enjoy these lectures and it is nice to feel like an undergraduate again. At first I found it quite surprising and interesting that even though my specialization was not psychology, I knew about so many of the cases and studies mentioned. I guess it is partly due to how influential psychology has been on second language acquisition studies and partly due to my interest in popular psychology--not to mention that my husband is a psycholinguist working in a psychology program, which means we know and talk to many psychologists.
Anyway, one of Bloom's lectures was about emotions and in the video below, Bloom talked about Damasio's book Descartes' Error, which I had found quite fascinating when I first read it. Bloom mentioned some cases where people had brain injuries and as a result suffered from emotion related problems. In the lecture, he noted that these patients (1) did not care that much about what they used to care and (2) failed to prioritize different tasks due to the brain damage to their frontal cortex.  This is interesting enough but it was not new to me. What struck me this time was the following question that popped up into my mind as I listened to Bloom, "For these two results, does the person have to have a brain injury? Or, in other words, is it possible for people to care less and stop being able to set their priorities when their emotions are inhibited for some psychological reason? For example, would someone trying to suppress a negative emotion, say grief or anxiety, either by drugs or normal defense mechanisms, have problems setting priorities or caring about different tasks or other people? Would they lose their derive, focus, or motivation? This sounds pretty intuitive to me but of course it is an empirical question and I'm very curious about the answer. Who knows, perhaps procrastination is a mild form of this situation where people suffer from suppressing a negative emotion. I wonder if there is some research on this possible connection. It would also be interesting to see how emotion inhibition or induction influence learning. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the lecture.

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