Psychology

Instinct, Emotion and Reason

Before I dig in here today I want to give credit where it’s due. I was inspired to consider what I’m about to go into here by a quick-hit Tweet from Illimitable Man. I didn’t bookmark it so I apologize for not linking it here today, but the general gist of it was about the mental processes humans go through when we’re presented with environmental stimuli that demands interpretation and a behavioral response. I considered this process quite a bit while I was studying behavioral psychology – Instinct, Emotion and Reason (or rationality if you prefer) – and I’m almost embarrassed that I haven’t covered this in terms of a Red Pill perspective in over 600 essays now.

The idea is fairly simple; when we are prompted by environmental (and sometimes internal) stimuli human beings process this information using three psychological mechanisms – our primal instincts, our emotional interpretations and our rational (reason) facilities. I’m not sure these processes get their proper due in Red Pill theory today.  I’ve detailed all of these processes individually for years on this blog, but generally they were outlined in the context of whatever topic I was focusing on. In this essay I’m going to elaborate on these aspects individually. Later, as part of this series, I’ll explore how they act in concert for our overall cognitive process, and then how they influence intersexual and intersocial dynamics. I think this is a useful exercise because a lot of foundational Red Pill ideas stem from these processes as well as the social conventions and interpretive priorities the Feminine Imperative relies on today.

For sake of clarity I am going to use a few behavioral psych terms like stimuli in this essay. This isn’t to throw $10 words at you, it’s just easier to elaborate on these processes with abstract terms. For example, when I use stimuli I mean any physical, environmental or cognitive prompt that our conscious or unconscious mind demands an interpretation, processing of and response to. That can be a wide variety of things so, stimuli serves as a general term.

Lastly, the following here is my interpretation of these processes. While a lot of this will align pretty well with established theories, this is my take on them and not some official, settled science of facts. If you think I’m full of shit please tell me why, this is still a work in progress for me.

Instinct

Instinct seems like the easiest of these processes to understand, but it’s really the cognitive aspect that’s most misunderstood, marginalized and often demonized. The reason for this is because our instincts reside in our subconscious (hindbrain) processing of stimuli. When I refer to men or women’s evolved mental firmware in my essays it’s our instinctual process that I’m referring to. These are the unlearned, inborn aspects of our human nature that influence the other processes and remain largely in our subconscious. Our instinctual processing is a direct result of our evolution. It evolved as a vitally necessary aspect of our cognitive processing in that it aided in our ability to survive in, and adapt to, a chaotic, primal environment when food was scarce, predators and rivals wanted us dead, and reproductive opportunities and raising a child to a survivable age were at a premium.

There are a lot of examples of our instinct level processing and each instinctual response triggers more complex processing up the cognitive chain through emotion and reason. If we were presented with a dangerous stimuli (a sabertooth tiger) our instinctual process triggers a fight or flight response physically in our bodies (adrenaline release). Needless to say this was an evolved adaptation that served our species well and was passed along genetically as part of our mental firmware. I’m going to use some simplistic examples here but, if you really want to dig into our preloaded mental firmware and how we developed it I would suggest looking into the earlier works of Dr. Steven Pinker and The Red Queen by Matt Ridley (I’ll post links in the comments).

Another example is human beings’ innate fear (reservations at least) of snakes and spiders – poisonous animals that looked easy to kill, but could kill humans without warning. That’s an example of relatively beneficial firmware, but the reason instinct gets a bad rep is due to the instincts that once were beneficial to us individually, but are less beneficial to us socially. Greed and gluttony were very practical, instinctually motivated behaviors that stemmed from a need to survive in a time when resources were scarce. Today greed is (mostly) seen as anti-social and a compulsion to overeat in a time when food is abundant is why we presently have an obesity epidemic.

Those are easily understood examples, but where things get more complex is in how our instinctual process influences the other processes (emotion and reason). Instinct gets demonized because in our ‘enlightened‘ era we like to believe that instinct is more trouble than it is beneficial. Most of that is due to a belief that our other processes are superior to (or at least should supersede) our instincts. Most of what we call sin or immoral behavior is motivated by the instinctual process. In fact, the only time our instinctual awareness and reactions are really credited with anything positive is when it gets us out of some life threatening situation or it leads to some prosocial outcome. For instance, the male instinct to protect women by putting ourselves between them and danger; that’s an instinct and resultant behavior (seemingly altruistic male self-sacrifice) that gets a lot of praise in our feminine-primary social order. However, for the most part, we tend to judge ‘baser instincts’ as a net negative.

The truth about the instinctual process is that none of our other processes function at full efficiency without it. Today, as a result of our feminine-primary acculturation, we want to relegate instinct’s influence to something “we’ve evolved beyond”. The popular consensus is we’ve raised ourselves above base instincts by either acknowledging the importance of the emotional process or that rationality and the self-control based on it immunizes us from its influence. Not only are these belief foolish and hubristic, they’re provably untrue. When it comes to concepts like the ‘selfish gene‘ and the physical differences in the evolved instinctual processes of men and women, it becomes necessary for a social order based on blank-slate equalism to demonize and marginalize the influence of, and behaviors attributed to, instinct.

The survival benefits and behaviors that make up the instinctual process were so necessary that they had to become part of our unconscious species firmware. Because the instinctual process is part of our animalistic hindbrain mental subroutines it’s something we have little or no direct control over until its effect is brought (often forced) into our conscious awareness. As such, and because we prefer to think of ourselves as emotional and rational beings, we tend to think of the influence of instinct as something we either have or need to have mastery over, and to a large extent this mastery makes sense. The truth is that instinct is an aspect of ourselves that needs to be controlled as well as embraced depending on circumstances.

Emotion

From an evolutionary perspective, the emotional process of interpreting stimuli is a mechanism of how our brains and biochemistry interact to affect our moods, demeanor and ’emotionality’ in response to both instinctual cues and the raw information of stimuli itself. Furthermore, the emotional process can also be influenced and/or modified by the rational process. I’m trying to be concise here, but our emotional response to information/stimuli is very much an evolved dynamic with latent purposes and practical functionalities. I’m making this distinction here because for millennia we’ve raised the effects of emotion to a mythical, metaphysical, importance.

While emotion often has immediate effects on us, emotion also has long term effect with regard to the stimuli it processes. There are dozens of definitions of emotions and there’s no way I’m going to lay them all out for you here. However, popular psychology asserts that there are as many as ten and as few as six base emotions:

  • Anger.
  • Disgust.
  • Fear.
  • Happiness.
  • Sadness.
  • Surprise.

Sometimes Contempt is added to this list. If these seem overly simplistic they are, again, abstracts to build more complex emotions on (some paleo-researchers insist there are only four base emotions across our evolved ethno-histories). For our purposes these base emotions will serve to show the connections between the instinctual process which prompts them and the rational process that modifies and sometimes informs them.

Each of these emotional responses is prompted by how our senses, brain and then instinctual process interprets a stimuli. Again, using our sabertooth tiger example, the instinctual process determines imminent danger and triggers a synaptic and hormonal response to that danger. As a result of that instinctual process an emotional process and response is triggered – likely fear (flight in most cases), but sometimes anger (fight).

Another example: you see an arousing woman (stimuli) at a party who is displaying behavioral cues and environmental indicators of interest (IOIs). Your instinctual process determines a high potential for a reproductive opportunity. From there the emotional process kicks in: hormones and dopamine (and not a small testosterone spike) that your instinctual process triggered flushes your system and serves as the basis for your emotional process to form an emotional response to the same stimuli. If it all passes the smell test that response (hopefully) will be happiness (and a little surprise mixed in).

There is a visceral biochemical interrelation between emotion and the stimuli/instinct relation that prompts the reaction. Adrenaline is one easy example, another is oxytocin or the “love hormone”. This is a bit of a mischaracterization of the hormone. Oxytocin induces feelings of trust and comfort and is thought to be a significant factor in human’s forming pair bonds and parental investments. There’s a lot more to oxytocin’s implications to our evolution than that, but for now lets look at how our biology influences the emotional process.

We proceed from stimuli to an instinctual response. If there is nothing mitigating that response (such as a rationally learned buffer to mitigate it) the next step in the chain is a biological reaction to that instinct – such as dumping adrenaline into our bloodstream or a post-orgasm flush of oxytocin after sex. From there the emotional process picks up the interpretation of this information as prompted by the cocktail of chemicals moving through our bloodstream and affecting our mental and physical interpretation of that stimuli. That biochemical factor prompts one, or a combination, of the base emotions listed above.

From there more complex emotions (feelings) and combinations thereof begin to form an emotional interpretation and response. This emotional response can be anything from a fast, reflexive one to a more nuanced and contemplative one. Furthermore, this emotional interpretation and response can also be modified by our rational mental process as well as our gendered capacity to process emotions. One thing to bear in mind about our emotional process is that it can imprint its interpretations into our ‘hard memory’ – sometimes so significantly that the memory of that stimuli can re-trigger that physical and emotional response.

Gender-modified interpretation of our emotion process is an important aspect to consider in Red Pill praxeology and one I’ll be elaborating on in the next part of this series. Until recently the accepted ‘science‘ about our emotional process has been based on a blank-slate equalist approach to emotion. In fact we still suffer from the outdated presumptions of academia that both men and women process emotion in the same manner, and, in theory, ought to be expected to have an equal capacity to interpret, respond and express emotion. In light of new technology and new research in a variety of interrelated disciplines we know this is old presumption is patently untrue. Men and women have different mental hardware and are born with different mental firmware. Both sexes interpret and process emotion in gender-specific manners.

I’ll be getting into the personal and social implications that the legacy of this (deliberate) misunderstanding presents in the next essay. For now it’s important to consider that human beings have an innate predisposition to elevate the emotional process above instinct and reason. Likely this is due the to the survival dependency we had on our feelings in our evolutionary past. In a time when we lacked the greater rational facilities and information we’ve developed in our more recent past, depending on and learning from emotion, and the latent purposes it serves, was a species-beneficial system. We depended on our emotions to guide our behaviors (long and short term) for us more in our prehistory when we lacked the more developed rational process we take for granted now. Emotions served latent evolutionary purposes for us in our prehistory and today are still overly emphasized – often to metaphysical attributes – as superior to reason. More on this soon.

Reason

The final piece of our interpretive process is reason, or rationality (I’ll use these interchangeably). Ironically, for all of the social preconceptions that our emotions have made us “more evolved” above instinct, it is our rational process that has evolved us above both instinct and emotion. From and evolutionary standpoint our rational process is a relatively recent development; pushing us past the limitations of instinct and emotion. The definition of rationality is the quality of being based on or in accordance with reason or logic. It is the quality of being able to think sensibly or logically and being endowed with the capacity to reason.

Biologically it’s postulated that our larger brains allowed us to develop a capacity for reason, but that doesn’t mean other animals lack the same facility, it’s just that the rational process is less developed (some would say less environmentally necessary) in those animals by order of degree. Dogs, for example, rely primarily on the instinctual process and the mental (vestigial) firmware they’re born with to solve most of their existential/environmental problems. That doesn’t mean that they lack the ability to learn and form novel (adaptive) behaviors using a rudimentary form of logic. Animals can be taught things, but their capacity to form novel ideas and behaviors is limited to their cognitive abilities. Humans, being the apex species on the planet, had the leisure to take the time necessary to evolve a capacity for logic and as such the rational process developed in us.

Of all our interpretive processes reason is the one that takes the longest to function. Our rational process forms our interpretation of stimuli based on information dissociated from the interpretations of instinct and emotion. Reason requires (accurate) knowledge derived from learning and experience, but there is also an improvisational element to the process.

Before I get too far in the weeds here I need to make a distinction; what I’m outlining is the rational mental process we employ to interpret and interact with stimuli, not rationality, the concept of reason or rationalism. That’s important because it’s all too easy to get lost in philosophical implications of reason when we look at the process of how we come to it.

As mentioned above, the rational process modifies the instinctual and emotional processes. Example, in high school, in drivers ed class, we’re taught to turn into a skid rather than turn with the skid. When we’re driving and we find ourselves in a skid our instinctive impulse is to slam on the the breaks and/or, worse still, to turn with the skid. Our self-preservation instincts tells us to do this, but all it does is make a precarious situation worse. However, when we’re taught, and we practice, not hitting the brakes and not turning into the skid, we make this our default reaction and we avoid disaster. This is the rational process interpreting a stimuli and forming a novel behavior that modifies the interpretation of the instinctual process.

The limitation of the rational process is in its necessity to take time to interpret information and develop a new apparatus. Where instinct and emotion are intimately linked with our biological hardware and psychological firmware, the rational process is dissociated from them in the same immediacy. Instinct and emotion are processes that evolved from a survival-need for fast interpretation and reaction. The rational process requires time, repetition and the right biological structures to be effective. Human beings are remarkably fast learners (even with complex challenges), but the learning that the rational process leads to is slow in comparison to instinct and emotion – which are essentially preloaded firmware in humans.

The rational process deals with the nuts and bolts of what we can understand of our reality. From there it can modify the other processes or it can serve to interpret stimuli on its own.

In the next part of this series I’ll be exploring how these cognitive processes interact and cooperate and conflict with each other. I will also consider the gendered advantages and disadvantages these processes represent to our individual experiences as men and women and the influence they play in intersexual and intersocial dynamics.