The brain is a category buster


Ever since Plato, scholars have drawn a clear distinction between thinking and feeling. Cognitive psychology tended to reinforce this divide: emotions were seen as interfering with cognition; they were the antagonists of reason. Now, building on more than a decade of mounting work, researchers have discovered that it is impossible to understand how we think without understanding how we feel.

“Because we subscribed to this false ideal of rational, logical thought, we diminished the importance of everything else,” said Marvin Minsky, a professor at MIT and pioneer of artificial intelligence. “Seeing our emotions as distinct from thinking was really quite disastrous.”

This new scientific appreciation of emotion is profoundly altering the field. The top journals are now filled with research on the connections between emotion and cognition. New academic stars have emerged, such as Antonio Damasio of USC, Joseph LeDoux of NYU, and Joshua Greene, a rising scholar at Harvard. At the same time, the influx of neuroscientists into the field, armed with powerful brain-scanning technology, has underscored the thinking-feeling connection.

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