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Emotion: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Dylan Evans
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Feb 2003 Very Short Introductions
Was love invented by European poets in the Middle Ages or is it part of human nature? Will winning the lottery really make you happy? Is it possible to build robots that have feelings? These are just some of the intriguing questions explored in this guide to the latest thinking about the emotions. Drawing on a wide range of scientific research, from anthropology and psychology to neuroscience and artificial intelligence, Emotion: The Science of Sentiment takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the human heart.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Emotion: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + The Brain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Memory: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Ill edition (13 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804617
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 11 x 17.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 191,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


a pop science classic (John Walsh, Independent on Sunday)

Evans provides a charming crash course on human sentiments (The Times,)

a fun little book . . .Highly accessible, this little gem deserves to sell well . . . student friendly . . . excellent introductory book (Simon Baron-Cohen, Nature)

readable and thought provoking account (Susan Aldridge, Focus)

Evans roams enjoyably through the firelds of psychology, psychotherapy, robotics, drugs and old-fashioned romance, like Alian de Botton in a labcoat (The Guardian (Review))

This book is a charming primer on the up-and-coming science of emotions. (James Kingsland New Scientist)

An admirably clear, intelligent and witty introduction (Steven Poole, Guardian)

a wealth of good sense backed by evidence (Marek Kohn, Evening Standard)

a witty little book (Iain Finlayson, The Times)

At last, an accessible and fascinating account of a neglected aspect of our mental lives. (Lewis Wolpert, author of "Malignant Sadness")

About the Author

Dylan Evans is a Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at King's College London, where he directs a research project in the evolution of the emotions. In his previous lives, he worked as a film-maker and psychotherapist. He is the author of Introducing Evolutionary Psychology (Icon, 1999) and Rethinking Emotion (MIT Press, forthcoming), and contributes regularly to the Guardian. In his spare time he is also a DJ.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good enough for my pennies 19 Oct 2008
The VSI series is something of a mixed bag quality-wise, but Evans has done a good job with this sharp introduction to Emotion.

Eschewing the thorny little devil of definition till last, Evan's first chapter introduces us to several categories of emotion. He describes how the most basic emotions (fear, joy, disgust) are common to most higher-animals through the shared limbic system, an age-old group of brain structures, whilst other emotions we're more complicit in creating, either by incessantly thinking over them (cognitive feedback) or through social expectations of our behaviour.
The second chapter deals with the bad press emotion sometimes picks up as an occlusion to rational, and so presumably saner, thought. Evans tries to show how emotions have been an important evolutionary tool for the past 100million years; fear and joy each being quite functional adaptations teaching us what to avoid and what makes sense to cherish.
The following two chapters deal with our ability to induce emotions and how our emotional potential affects us every day in positive ways we are often unaware of. Finally, in chapter five, Evans begins to ask the question, `what is emotion?' His answer is that there is no stock of emotions as such, but rather emotional events, combining behavioural, neurobiological and evolutionary aspects. And although this may seem unsatisfying to some, it does leave the door open nicely for the evolving areas of AI and Robotics. Computers with genetic algorithms evolving their own programmes and environmental interactions may well develop forms of emotive consciousness different from our own yet no less `real'.

I liked this book. Evans has enthusiasm and a sense of humour, he's not too stompy in the boggy bits and leaves enough trails for the intrepid to explore. Frankly, that's what you look for from an intro writer... other VSI authors take note.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Experimental nuggets with some cod philosophy 8 Aug 2011
By Emily - London VINE VOICE
This book claims classic status, and argues that computers may need to have emotions too in the future. It travels from the realms of the `universal' language of human facial emotion, through brain structure, to discuss the social and biological value of the emotions. In the process, it argues that Spock could never have evolved, because emotions are so important in effective decision-making alongside Spock-like reason.

It travels on from that to efforts at philosophy - defining emotions - in ways which gloss over the physiological basis of emotions in the brain and in physical impact on the body - so it is easier for him to argue that computers could truly have emotions. Interestingly, the picture he uses of two robots falling in love is of course of two robots in human bodies.

Much of this is superficial. But there are gems of insight and nuggets of information reviewing the experimental literature - some good stories along the way ranging from how we flirt when anxious, to tips for interior decor!

Emotions are effective decision-takers guiding natural selection - they help us make better decisions eg to protect a friend from death, to help each other, to run away, and they help us because we anticipate those emotions and therefore act to avoid or achieve them, learning to do so from others as well as by experience. OK. It's a sensible argument, and the emotional brain doesn't do it rationally, it goes straight from sensory thalamus to amygdale and emotional response, often bypassing the cortex that may attempt to rationalise or reassess afterwards.

There is a good discussion of the pluses and minuses of talking to manage emotion - joking, venting, eliminating negative thoughts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars does what it says on the tin... 23 Feb 2011
By abi
This is a decent overview of emotion, it covers a range of basic theories and makes for interesting reading. It doesnt explain anything very deeply but gives a good basic insight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very good 9 Nov 2011
i originally brought this to do a research project, picking out the bits that were useful to me but ended up reading it all. very interesting.
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