It seems emotions are meant to drive us to actions. Is that fair to say? An emotion is meant to set us in motion?
Emotions are used in determining our actions. So some are focused towards specifically driving us to take immediate action, or a strong action. I would say they're there to guide our action. Anger, specifically, spurs you to action. Happiness makes you more exploratory, more creative, more open to ideas. So you might do something that you wouldn't ordinarily do.
How did you change your behavior based on what you learned in researching this book?
I'm much more aware of what makes me think and do things. Like, if you're in a grocery store, and you're hungry, everyone knows you're going to buy more stuff. You go into the store, you have certain data. If you go when you're in a non-hungry state, you have all that data in front of you, and all those choices to make, and you make a series of choices. If you go when you're in a hungry state, same data, same information, and you make totally different decisions. That's a good illustration of what emotions do. The emotions are a framework for your logical processing. It affects how you evaluate data, how skeptical you are of certain ideas versus how accepting you are of those same ideas. Your brain doesn't process in a vacuum.
How has your understanding of emotion influenced how you think about making decisions?
It raises my consciousness about decisions. I might decide to revisit a decision later because I know I'm in a certain emotional state. I also realized, though, that that's not always a bad thing. As a scientist, I tend to push toward, what is the objective thing to do? You make the lists: pros on the left side, cons on the right column. When I've done that in the past, I've often said, "Oh, okay, so my list tells me to do A, but I still want to do B." And then, later, it turns out B was the right thing. Your feelings are a very important tool in understanding the world. Your unconscious mind does a lot of mental calculations that are more complex than your conscious mind is able to do. It can handle more information. That's what comes back to your brain in gut feelings, hunches and intuitions. Those aren't from nowhere. They're the result of complex calculations your brain did on an unconscious level, in conjunction with emotion.