Historically, emotions have been an “uncomfortable” element in research on cognitive abilities and human behavior.
Some researchers have defined them as “noise,” which interferes constantly with really important processes, such as attention, cognition, awareness or decision-making.
Why are emotions important in therapy?
In recent decades, however, the importance of emotions is gaining ground, Find a special place in the field of psychology and neurosciences. It is now commonly accepted that we cannot understand the human psyche in its complexity without considering emotions and their relationship to other executive abilities.
However, we do not yet fully understand these relationships, nor do we have models that allow us to integrate them naturally.
These limits of our knowledge are due to two main factors. The first is the fact that emotional experiences are subjective phenomena which can hardly be evaluated scientifically in all their complexity; the second is the need to approach its functionality in an evolutionary context, reasoning its existence in the milestones that have defined us as a species and as individuals.
ETR (Emotional Theory of Rationality): what is it?
recently a new paradigm called ETR (Emotional Theory of Rationality, Garcés and Finkel 2019) provided an original approach that allows us to fill these knowledge gaps from a different angle.
This new approach is based on the premise that every living being, in order to survive, is subject to a series of constraints which oblige it to develop a subtle balance between the capacities it acquires and the energy and resources necessary to maintain them.
This means that fundamental physical laws, along with evolutionary and adaptive processes sustained over long periods of time, have shaped the nervous system as a highly optimized mechanism in information processing, allowing the development of responses that facilitate a effective and efficient interaction of living things with the environment, thus improving their chances of survival and reproduction.
As part of the optimization mechanism, due to uncertainties about the characteristics and simultaneity of stimuli that an individual will face, evolution has designated the emotional system as responsible for performing three main functions:
- Implement innate responses broad spectrum that allows exploration and quickly process new or unexpected stimuli for which there is no specific response.
- Activate cognitive systems, Responsible for researching and developing new responses, only on demand, improving response time and resource consumption.
- Evaluate the criticality of the stimuli to be resolved, Modulate attention to allow priority access to the most advanced and scarce resources, where appropriate, in accordance with other processes.
Its influence on cognitive systems
According to the ETR model, the emotional system is always active and controls attention, which in turn is responsible for regulating and prioritizing access to information in cognitive systems.
Cognitive systems develop responses modulate emotional responses, thus closing a circular, complementary, dynamic and interdependent architecture. According to this model, emotion and cognition are not in competition, but collaborate and complement each other to achieve a more effective way to solve the challenges facing the individual.
This new approach clearly describes and supports the relationship between emotional mechanisms, Attention and cognitive abilities, which in turn modulate the emotional response, thus shutting down the system and defining its overall dynamics.
Thus, within this new paradigm, the emotions would be the element of optimization of the cerebral functioning, making it possible to understand how and why they are those which regulate the relations of other executive functions, conditioning their dynamics and, sometimes generating phenomena. behavioral very far from the socially established ideal, but very close to the evolutionary ideal of survival.
The model also opens the door to the incorporation of the somatic component, associated with emotional responses, as a new stimulus processed by the system, generating dynamics that give rise to very diverse and complex mental and behavioral phenomena.
Applications of this new model
This new model has important implications for explaining these psychological and behavioral phenomena which until now could only be described. It also allows you to identify specific factors that can help improve the approach and understanding of these phenomena., Having important applications in areas such as education, motivation, decision making or the explanation of certain non-adaptive behaviors, among others.
At the organizational level, this new model is already used to develop personal skills related to adaptation to change, creativity and innovation, as well as to the improvement of interpersonal relationships, leadership or restructuring. organizations themselves.
- Garcés, M. and Finkel, L. (2019). Emotional theory of rationality. Frontiers in Integrative Neurosciences, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2019.00011