Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, researchers revealed from New York University and City University of New York. They argue that conscious experiences, regardless of their content, arise from one system in the brain. The differences between emotional and non-emotional states are the kinds of inputs that are processed by a general cortical network of cognition, a network essential for conscious experiences. As a result, the brain mechanisms that give rise to conscious emotional feelings are not fundamentally different from those that give rise to perceptual conscious experiences.
While emotions, or feelings, are the most significant events in our lives, there has been relatively little integration of theories of emotion and emerging theories of consciousness in cognitive science. Existing work posits that emotions are innately programmed in the brain’s subcortical circuits. As a result, emotions are often treated as different from cognitive states of consciousness, such as those related to the perception of external stimuli. In other words, emotions aren’t a response to what our brain takes in from our observations, but, rather, are intrinsic to our makeup. However, after taking into account existing scholarship on both cognition and emotion, researchers conclude that emotions are “higher-order states” embedded in cortical circuits.