Emotions

The Most Important Thing We All Have in Common

Darwin wrote a book called The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published in 1872.  I just did a third edition of that book, published by Oxford Press in the United States in which I inserted over a hundred commentaries by myself and other scientists about what Darwin had to say.  Was he right or wrong?

Over 90 percent of them said at the time he didn’t have the evidence, but he was right.  He knew and understood expression.  Darwin says expression showed the basic humanity and it showed the basic unity of all human beings, that we all share the same emotions and the same expressions.  That’s what links us together.  That was very important to him, to counter the racists of his times who were claiming in the 19th century that Caucasians had descended from a more advanced progenitor than Africans.

This demolished that.  So it does show one of the most important things about us we all have. It’s not that the guy you’re dating, he never feels any of the emotions you have.  Now, he may have different attitudes about those emotions.  He may try to conceal them. But the very same sets are enormously important and in any transaction that matters whether it’s between lovers, between parent and child, between salesman and client, between doctor and patient, between suspect and interrogator, between adversaries at an election, emotion is what we’re looking for, emotion tells us what matters.

60 Second Reads is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

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