The Genius of Instinct: the Face of Emotions
- Mar 18, 2009
Why do humans have emotions? According to the principles of natural selection, they must give some advantage in helping humans survive. What is it?
Unlike the majority of the scientists who study the brain as the hardwiring apparatus for emotions, those who consider your evolutionary heritage use a different part of the body, a different hardwiring apparatus that helps them explain the primary functions of emotions. This hardwiring apparatus is known as your face.
The face is the supreme center for sending and receiving social signals crucial for the development of an individual’s interpersonal communication and that individual’s cohesiveness with family and society.
There is no doubt that facial expressions of emotions have evolutionary-biological significance as a prelude to their psychological and social significance. Contemporary theorists in the field support the belief that facial expressions evolved primarily from serviceable associated habits or intention movements—the incomplete or preparatory phases of activities, such as attack, locomotion, defense, and movements associated with respiration and vision.
During the course of evolution, facial expression developed into a system of social communication that conveys information about the internal states (intentions) of the expresser and alerts fellow creatures to certain aspects of the environment. For example, a fearful face signals the perception of danger and the intention of the organism to flee or submit.
The importance of facial expressions and facial movements in social communication among primates has been noted by almost every student of primate behavior and, if you were to review the theory and research on the evolution of facial expressions, you would arrive at similar conclusions that help make the case for why you have emotions, and thus, how to best use them for shelter seeking, or for that matter, how to get out of the proverbial self-destructive relationship, that has been going on for years.
First, the facial neuromuscular mechanisms—the muscles, for example, that are necessary to smile or frown and share other basic expressions—show continuity from the higher primates to man. Logically, if human facial expressions are more complex and show greater range and number than the facial displays of lower primates, and yet encompass the facial expressions of lower primates, then evolutionary selection must have played an important role in the differentiation of the emotions and the facial expressions that communicate them.
This being the case, then, different emotions should have different adaptive functions. Studies show this to be true, for example, by showing strong evidence for the existence of genetically determined universal behavior patterns that represent several fundamental emotions. Importantly, findings show that significant aspects of emotion communication are based on genetically programmed and species-common behavior patterns—the facial expressions of the fundamental emotions.
All human social bonds or interpersonal relationships are based on emotions, and the emotions are communicated primarily by means of facial expressions.
Thus, evolutionary sciences tell us that the function of an emotion is to communicate information. Strategic evolutionary psychology would instruct you to leverage this function by recognizing and responding to the message of your emotion.
When is it time to shelter seek? When your emotions tell you to.