November 2009
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The body loop

A little while ago Jonah Lehrer (here) posted a blog on the work of A. Damasio and A. Bechara.

Why would being able to count your heartbeats lead to better performance at a card game? The answer tells us something interesting about the “body loop,” and the importance of eavesdropping on those subtle emotions reverberating through our flesh. As William James hypothesized back in 1882, every emotion begins as a series of physiological changes in the body; our metaphysical feelings have a very carnal source. “What kind of an emotion of fear,” James wondered, “would be left [after seeing a bear in the woods] if the feeling of quickened heart beats nor of shallow breathing, neither of trembling lips nor of weakened limbs, neither of goose bumps nor of visceral stirrings, were present?” James’ answer was simple: without the body there would be no fear. We need the body in order to feel.

Damasio believes that emotion has a central role in rational thought. Feelings are indispensable.

2 Responses to “The body loop”

  1. mariana says:

    The blog is more interesting than ever, need time to digest all this information, I find this entry very interesting, great insight the one from james. I think that in the emotions are included the physical reactions (which are many times out of our range of awarenes), by percieving them we are able to understand what is happening with us and also in some cases to modify how we feel, like for example taking deep breaths can help us calm down.
    Nice to be back Janet.

    JK: Nice to have you back! It just doesn’t work to divide the mind from the body and only have one-way communication.

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