S. Back - agentur für ungarische literatur - agency for hungarian literature

HU 2010
Az Érzelmek Logikája

László Mérö: Az Érzelmek Logikája (The Logic of the Emotions)

314 pages (Hungary, 2010)

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It is possible that the famous first sentence of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina misled psychological research for a century. In recent years happiness has become one of the core subjects of academic psychological research, and it has transpired that it is every bit as varied as unhappiness. Every happy person is happy in their own way – and so is every happy family.

“The heart has reasons which reason knows nothing of.” So wrote Blaise Pascal almost four hundred years ago. Yet the psychological research studies of the past two decades have given birth to a surprising discovery: emotions are present in pure logical thought; what is more, it is precisely rational thought which suffers their absence the most. And this is not just true for the positive emotions: a bad mood or sudden anger can in many instances improve the quality of our thought and help in business decision-making. The motivations of the heart and the brain are impossible to separate.

László Mérös new book presents this new approach to emotions to a general reading audience, omitting psychological jargon, but with refined intellectual humour. He covers a number of interesting psychological experiments, from which the reader can better understand the operation of their own emotions, and learn how various emotions affect their thought.

The first part of the book introduces the structure of the emotions and their basic types. Through evolution, entirely different types of emotion have been passed to the same channels in the brain. Because of this, it can be very difficult or often impossible to distinguish whether an emotion: 1) was created inside us by some stimulus in the world outside us, 2) was caused by our own thoughts, or 3) the given emotion developed within us thanks to our specifically human goals, convictions and faith.

The second part, in the knowledge of these three basic types of emotion, introduces the role played by emotions in thought, the advantages of bad moods, and what emotional intelligence really means – it turns out that in point of fact this is an integral part of general intelligence.

The third part analyzes the various “happiness portfolios”, and through these the increasingly significant role of emotions in the economy. Everyone optimizes their own “happiness portfolio” in a different way, and the modern economy is increasingly about putting these into practice.

The book’s last three paragraphs summarize its conclusions as follows:

“Human emotions have become closely tangled together, as a result of what, with an engineer’s eyes, is the astonishingly slipshod nature of Darwinian evolution. They are an inseparable mix of three entirely different types of logic, but this mess which evolution has generated has nevertheless assisted, or at least not obstructed, the survival of our species.

If this is what we have been left with, we have no choice but to learn to live with the muddled yet mostly useful and functional inconsistencies of our emotions. We can learn to see this muddle in us and in others – or even in the economy – as having beauty. The prosaic nature of the causes does not preclude the poetic nature of the consequences.

We can also apply the knowledge we have gained of the structure of emotions in deliberate fashion; we can, for example, learn to influence our moods in order better to assist the current tasks of our thought – we need think only of Friedrich Schiller sniffing a rotting apple while writing Ode to Joy, or of Stendhal as he read dull books of legislation before starting to write. There remains but one thing we cannot learn: how to separate, with a sure hand, emotions of different types but similar forms. We can, however, learn how to become fond of this poetic muddle.”


A New Approach to the Emotions
The healthy soul
Psychology is not biology
Economics is not psychology
The reasons of the heart

The Structure of the Emotions
Colours and emotions – Colour tests – Emotional prisms – Emotions on the polygraph – Words and feelings – Emotions on people’s faces – The six basic emotions – Emotions in the brain – The James-Lange theory – Pencil in the mouth – Contagious emotions – Biologically programmed emotions

The appearance of the self – The evolution of the emotions – Learned helplessness – Human learned helplessness – The nature of motivations – Fundamental and cognitive motivations – Purely human motivations – The three basic types of emotion – Affection – Love

Cancer-inducing helplessness – Learned optimism – That certain 40 (but at least 20) per cent – Depressive realism – The flow – The Duchenne smile – The birth of positive psychology – The three components of happiness – Many roads lead to happiness

Silent emotions – The role of negative emotions – Magic spells – Rapport – Easily, quickly – Avenues of self-help

The Role of the Emotions in Thought
Good moods help creativity – Bad moods help decision-making – Real-life experiments – Problem-solving – Brainstorming – Controlled fury

The thought of the emotionally handicapped – The card experiment – Somatic markers – The slipshod nature of evolution – Descartes’ error – Why does mood affect thought? – Psychology’s affective revolution – Emotion control

What do we mean by intelligence? – Measuring intelligence – The notion of intelligence – IQ – Creativity – Creativity and intelligence – Special abilities – The notion of emotional intelligence – Measuring emotional intelligence – EQ as part of IQ – The map of what, exactly?

Cognitive and affective points of view – Cognitive schemes – Natural and artificial emotions – The feeling of authenticity – Thinking in flow – Chaos in the brain – The autonomous existence of cognitive schemes – The controlling role of conscious thought

The Role of the Emotions in the Economy
No such thing as needs – The science of substitutions – Giffen goods for rats – The models of economics – The crisis of models – Logically but not psychologically equivalent – The economics of behaviour – Chaos in the economy

Sunk costs – The present is the past of the future – Professional business decision-makers – The poker player as a business decision-maker – The big secret – Business skills – Plans and off-the-cuff steps – The flow of decision-making

Motivations and hygiene – KA motivations – Intrinsic motivations – Group learned helplessness – Power as a motivator – Noble beasts – Money as a motivator – How can we buy loyalty? – Absurdly big money

Happiness portfolios – The happiness business – Non-Darwinian evolution – Seligman’s example – The meaning of the emotions – A loveable muddle

Positive emotions – Negative emotions – Mixed emotions

Kritiken / Reviews:

reviews still to come

More works of this writer:

Az elvek csapodár természete (I Have My Principles!)
Uj Észjárások (Habits of Mind)
Mindenki másképp egyforma (Moral Calculations)
A pénz evolúciója (The Evolution of Money)

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