Thursday, February 02, 2012

Emotion and Decision

I’ve been reading some of the works of celebrated animal behavior expert Temple Grandin, who, as you probably know, is autistic and believes her condition allows her a unique insight into the minds of nonhuman creatures. In ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION she mentions a psychological discovery that came as quite a revelation to me: It has been found that people who lack all capacity for emotion, for instance because of brain injury, can’t make decisions. Logical, rational weighing of alternatives isn’t enough. Emotionless people have no impetus to choose one course of action over another. I’m somewhat shocked because I’ve always assumed choice and will are independent of feelings. As one slogan of the Marriage Encounter program says, “Love is a decision.” Even at the occasional moments when you feel like wringing your significant other’s neck, you can choose to behave in a loving way.

So does this theory apply to aliens? Does it mean a completely emotionless character, such as Spock claims to be, couldn’t function? Of course, we know Vulcans aren’t truly devoid of emotion; they simply control it more thoroughly than most of us do. What about Data? Before he got his emotion chip, he made choices and decisions as if his mind corresponded to a human being’s in that respect. Would he actually be able to do so?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. I was about to post something like, "Well, what about deciding what to have for dinner, that's a fairly emotion-free choice, innit?" But then I realized that food choices can, indeed, be very intimately connected with emotions. interesting idea for my little gray cells to play with...