This week’s lecture on emotion was one of my favorites. I suspect that many people including myself have trouble decoding their own emotions at times. Sometimes we feel sad, happy, excited, or scared and can’t pinpoint why. Even when we can identify the cause of an emotion such as a spider with fear, most of us don’t know why we react the way we do. Surprisingly, evolution plays a huge role in why we feel the way we do.
Last week I was not the biggest fan of Professor Bloom’s lesson on evolution. It was a lot of information I already knew and I did not understand its relevance in psychology. As a stand-alone lecture I still stand by my opinion but in-context it is much more useful. Now I know that evolution is responsible for most of our emotions and has shaped who we are not only physically but mentally as well. An example of this is a study conducted on young children living in the South Side of Chicago. Chicago’s South Side is notorious for gang-violence and has even been referred to as “Chi-raq”. A group of researchers interviewed kids living in these dangerous neighborhoods and asked them what their greatest fears were. One would assume that it would be guns, being jumped, or even reckless drivers. Instead, the kids listed snakes and spiders among their greatest fears. Professor Bloom stated that the reason for this is because snakes and spiders are natural fears that have been engraved in us due to evolution. The environment that we live in does not affect these innate fears. He backed-up his statement with a study conducted by Dr. Judy Delow out of the University of Virginia. She exposed babies to objects that looked like snakes and spiders and they reacted in the same way a young child would even though these babies had never seen a spider or snake before. According to Dr. Delow, the reason behind this is that spiders and snakes are prepotent stimuli which backs up Professor Bloom’s statement.
I found this whole lecture both interesting and confusing because it made me think back to the idea of nature vs. nurture. I have always thought that nurture is the stronger force and that the environment you are raised in affects you tremendously. While this still may be true, certain factors such as prepotent stimuli are out of your control and wired in you from birth. I had originally planned to do my final project on perception and memory but the subject of emotion, specifically fear is also peaking my interest. I’ll do some more in-depth research this week and hopefully I’ll be able to settle on one topic by the end of the month.