Darwin's Applications to Psychology
Darwin argued, “that dogs manifestly experience many of the same emotions as humans, including jealousy…pride…shame…and even a rudimentary SENSE OF HUMOR” (Fancher 206). Darwin studied this and other mental attributes in animals such as memory, attention, and dreaming. In so Darwin concluded that the differences between humans and advanced animals mentally, was that of quantity.This of course went against the view that humans and animals were completely different beings altogether.
In 1872 Darwin published another influential book called The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. In this book Darwin expressed that our emotions have evolved over time and that they are and were essential to our survival. He stated that our emotions have a very functional application to them. For example, when we are surprised we widen our eyes which helps us see everything around us, and when humans and animals are enraged we show our teeth prompting ones sympathetic nervous system for fight or flight (Fancher 207). This would give us a physical advantage in a situation that brought our survival into jeopardy.
Like what is believed of our appendix by doctors of today, Darwin suggested that some of our emotional reactions that we needed in the past for survival are not needed in the present. Some may actually be somewhat harmful. For example, when many people go up in front of a crowd to give a speech they begin to feel nervous. Our body heightens our senses, increases our heart rate, and basically puts us in fight or flight mode. This can be very impairing to the speaker! Such continuous reactions followed by continuous failure to do the task at hand can be a contributing factor to some mental disorders such as social anxiety disorder.
Darwin further bridged the gap between humans and animals by noting that there are three basic principles that account for all emotional expression. These he said are “ direct serviceability of the expression, antithesis, and direct activation of the nervous system” (Fancher 208). Darwin also stated that sometimes people act not upon rational thought, but “betray unconscious and instinctive signs of their long animal ancestry (Fancher 208). This thought was soon explored more in depth by Sigmund Freud.