• Question: why is it that people have feelings??

    Asked by emmam to Adam, Catherine, Karen, Leila, Nazim on 20 Mar 2012. This question was also asked by igloo23, ejrw.
    • Photo: Adam Stevens

      Adam Stevens answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      Brilliant question! I’m assuming you mean emotions rather than the sense of touch.

      First off – we aren’t the only animal that seems to have emotions.

      Second – this is a very difficult question that hasn’t really been looked at conclusively.

      There’s lots of theories about why we have emotions, but since we think that everything developed via evolution, there must be some kind of evolutionary reason for them.

      For example, anger could be something to do with promoting a fight response – injecting adrenaline into the body. Love might be to do with reproductive hormones or identifying the best mates.

      It may be that emotions are just side effects of the way our brain works, and it could be that we’ll never really work out the answer to this.

    • Photo: Catherine Rix

      Catherine Rix answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      I don’t think anyone knows the answer to this question. I guess that emotions must have evolved because they help us to survive. Early humans probably depended a lot of living in groups and working together to survive so having emotions and being able to recognise emotions in each other might have helped the group work together better to look after each other.

    • Photo: Leila Battison

      Leila Battison answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      People aren’t the only things that have feelings – but we’re not sure how much it crosses over with consciousness or self awareness.

      It’s not obvious why we have a lot of emotions, but they are probably something to do with a survival response. So love might be an extension of the need to mate, or to look after your children to make sure they survive to carry on your genes…

      Things like guilt, or sadness are more difficult to explain, and might be more of a side effect of being self aware.

      I wonder if alien species would have feelings, or if they would just have instincts like most animals on Earth…

    • Photo: Nazim Bharmal

      Nazim Bharmal answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      We think that most of the reason that we have ‘feelings’ (emotions) is that we are social animals and it partly helps us live together with other people.

      Imagine if you couldn’t tell if people were sad or happy or angry: those feelings help us, by ourselves, to understand we have a problem or reward us if something good happens, or let us do things a bit more quickly when we are angry. Without being sad or happy or angry, other people wouldn’t easily be able to tell if we were in danger, or doing okay, or in need of friendship.

      So the need to live together isn’t the whole answer of why we have feelings, but perhaps it is part of it.