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Why do humans have such complex emotions?
I believe animals and humans need the basic emotions such as desire and logical fear etc, but why have we developed those such as jealousy, vengeance, needless worrying and many more that seem detrimental to leading a well-adjusted life?
(It hasn't been proved that animals have these apparently useless emotions).
asked in People, life, emotions



rainchild answers:

Being the naked, physically defenseless creatures that we are, we need a higher intelligence in order to survive. We need to be able to group together and form alliances and trust, etc. I'd say a lot of these other emotions are by-products of our higher intelligence. That's kind of the theory behind those sci-fi stories where artificial intelligence develops emotions. (and thus a 'soul')


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sheps101 answers:

I always seen it as part of the balancing act that allows us to be what we are, in order to archive balance in your life you must have some awareness of what is on either side. It is then up to us do learn and to a degree decide how we deal with the extremes of emotion in order to feel earthed and balanced.


Supplement from 12/14/2008 12:40pm:

I also disagree any emotion is useless, how you deal with the emotion not the emotion that is the issue


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wumpus answers:

I'd say that a lot of them stem from the evolution and the "survival of the fittest" theory.

Jealousy could come from wanting to protect your own breeding ability. If somebody were to steal your partner, you can no longer mate.
Other forms of jealousy (covetousness) stem from the desire to steal; if you take your neighbours goods, you improve your own condition and therefore improve your chances of mating successfully. Even more so if it's his wife/harem/daughter you take from him.

Desire is a simple matter of selecting the best partner for mating.
It's interesting to note that the characteristics of desire do change with time; it's not so long ago that men preferred the "fuller figure" for example.
Evidently there is an element of learning, environment and even possibly peer pressure involved in the selection.
But the emotion remains the same, no matter what/who you covet.


Needless worry would be the natural extension of the human's ability to plan, and consider what might go wrong, and then consider the consequences of that undesirable state of affairs.
The animal world doesn't seem to have mastered the ability to predict into the future, or plan ahead, so animals don't worry the same way that we do.
I suspect this could be a consequence of language and communication; unless old people can tell you what it's like to be old, you can't plan for your old age. Same thing with other experiences.
I'd say it's part of the reason that we become so fixated with disasters on a massive scale; without something to worry about (food scares, global warming, pollution, etc.), this part of the brain doesn't get stimulated so we're never really happy.

Vengeance isn't an emotion as such, but the desire for it is.
It could stem from a wish to prevent a similar wrong occurring again.
Which would again follow-on from the ability to plan ahead; believing that the same wrong could be perpetrated again.


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seacommander answers:

This is a very tough question. Wumpus has given a good break down of the possible background to each of the emotions you mentioned. Your question asks why do humans have such complex emotions, so I'm going to try and answer it from a more fundamental perspective.
I don't know if this is an over-simplification, but I think humans have developed a whole range of emotions purely because we are able to think. This has given us the power to analyse the basic emotions you mention and the reasons we feel them. Having accomplished the analysis we can then go on to develop the original emotions or even 'create' new ones. An example might be the basic emotion of desire that you offer in your question. It could be the desire of another person and we see that desire being threatened by a competitor. As humans we can analyse the situation and begin to formulate counter plans which for example could lead on to some form of vengeance.
I'm not sure I have explained myself too well but I think the human ability to think is fundamental to all of the emotions we feel.


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