How emotions influence, how we see the world?
University Malaysia Perlis
as a discipline has emerged over the last sixty years with the
brain as a computer metaphor, leaving the study of
emotion to behavioral psychology. But recent research has
determined that our cognitive processing has an emotional
element, and is paramount for effective functioning.
Our thinking and decision making is influenced by two distinct,
yet interwoven processes. One involves conscious deliberation
and analysis through the prefrontal cortex where facts
are considered and weighed, options generated and compared with
reasoning to determine an outcome. The second system is
non-conscious rapid emoto-based pattern recognition with
emotionally weighted biases.
Emotion triggers memories, and perceptions, and memories also
trigger emotions which define the nature of our existence
relative to the past and future, and our sense of power over any
Emotions are part of our fundamental irrationality and
unpredictability and thus an important influence in creativity
and original thinking. Our basic emotions come from inner
extra-rational dynamics deep within our psych that are expressed
as feelings, dreams, fantasies, and other imagined aspects of
our lives. Our more
complex emotions like loyalty, sympathy, pride, confidence,
achievement, embarrassment, indignation, bewilderment, pity,
elation, satisfaction, boredom, shame, disgust, frustration, and
surprise, etc, tend to be socially related and constructed.
Everything we perceive evokes some form of feeling and the
process of creativity, innovation and invention is always an
emotional and even sensual experience in people as concepts are
translated into words, numbers, diagrams, or objects, leading to
Emotions decide what we like, dislike, what is agreeable,
disagreeable, giving meaning to our world. Emotions can
sometimes help us see similar patterns across fields without
conscious deliberation and plays an important role in signaling
preferences for opportunities by arousing positive emotions,
kindling enthusiasm and determining our reactions to shocks and
the behavioral trajectories we take.
Our level of awareness is related to various groups of emotions
that may influence our perception and thought processes, and
thus organization of information. Emotions play a major part in
developing our self concept “I” and “me” with
different sets of emotions are related to different levels of
At our primal level we are concerned about our basic
physiological needs. Our awareness is physical and immediate,
concerned about now. Associated with our primal self are
the basic emotions concerned about survival, physical
fulfillment and enjoyment. The material level is
concerned with pleasure, comfort, and the avoidance of pain. The
boundaries of a person are metaphorically extended by the things
we own. The social self is very much based in feelings of
one’s position in relation to others. Empathy exists at this
level and our emotions are concerned with belongingness. The
ego self is the most common domain where we are concerned
about ‘how we see ourselves’ and ‘how others see us’.
The ego self is about glorifying ourselves. This
level of awareness leads to very sophisticated coping mechanisms
to deal with realities that don’t fit in with our world view.
The spiritual self enables us to attach different sets of
values to “I’ and “me”, where people begin to feel
integrated with the world around them. At this level self esteem
comes from doing what a person feels is right, and where a
person may be willing to sacrifice their interests for the
interests of something greater than themselves. At this higher
level people can transcend their basic emotions of excitement,
fear, anger, and anxiety, and will be aware of their defense
mechanisms that operate at the ego level.
One is immersed within their own sea of emotional orientation
with each level of awareness differently influencing perception
and thought. Within the lower continuums people’s streams of
thought tend to be negatively based where fear manifests itself
in worry, anger, judgment, and general anxiety, leading to
generally pessimistic narrative. At the spiritual level
there is little negative narrative on the part of the person.
Our view of the world is filtered through emotions which guides
our self awareness to a past or future orientation. Our thinking
is swayed by our time orientation within an emotion matrix
depicted in figure 1. Any past orientation will be full of
stories which influence our sense of meaning about the present.
Some of the stories we remember will be full of regret for past
mistakes, disappointment for what was not done, or full of
satisfaction and/or pride for what was achieved. The past
influences our interpretation of the present. Positive and
negative experiences influence what we perceive, contemplate and
put our focus upon in the now. The positive and negative
memories of the past also guide our direction in the future.
Positive memories guide us towards action where we have a high
sense of self efficacy and negative memories tend to make us
averse to taking action where we have a low sense of self
efficacy. The future represents our positive hopes and
aspirations, or negative fears and anxieties where positive
emotions may lead to a sense of high self efficacy and become
powerful motivators for action, while negative emotions may lead
to sense of low self efficacy feasibility and take an averse
attitude towards action. Extreme feelings of low or high self
efficacy can lead to either reckless overconfidence in a
positive emotional state or an aversion from action out of fear
and anxiety in a negative emotional state. The same feelings are
not uniform across the all activities, where a person may feel a
high sense of self efficacy in some areas and low sense of self
efficacy in other areas.
Figure 1. The emotion matrix
There is a strong nexus between our experiences, prior knowledge
and emotion. We see the world through the perspective of our own
identity shaped by our emotions. The interaction of experience,
prior knowledge and emotion leads to the formation of our
beliefs, which lay the foundation of our values and aspirations,
expressed through patterning, and sets of heuristics which guide
our thinking and decision making. The above dynamics fuels our
imagination which translates our memory, into beliefs,
aspirations, and emotions into scenarios that create feelings of
self efficacy, motivation, energy, and drive. Our optimal
position for learning is within the present orientation where
the influence of future fears and hopes, past disappointments
and successes are minimized and within our conscious awareness.
Too much past or future orientation may lead to personal
delusion such as unrealistic hopes that an entrepreneurial
opportunity really exists,
or massive overconfidence in one’s ability to successfully
implement a complex strategy in the field. Alternatively too
much future or past orientation may lead to undue pessimism
where the feeling of self efficacy and motivation is low,
leading to states of anxiety and inaction. Orientation in the
past will anchor one into previous patterns of success, which
promote rigidity, while too much orientation into the future may
lead to fantasy, thus leading to unrealistic objectives and the
ability to consider realistic scenarios.
The impact of our past and future orientation and sense of self
efficacy upon our behavior is strong. Emotion is embedded within
our culture and forms part of our domicile outlook.
Philip Zimbardo postulated that people living in tropical
climates where there is little change in the weather and where a
language has no future tense leads to an inept propensity for
action. Rural youth
unemployment within developing and post industrial societies
appear to be developing a generation of youth that feels little
hope about the future, while societies in countries like
Malaysia where sections of the population seek to cling to the
order of the past may do little to prepare for the challenges of
the future. Max Weber attributed the rise of capitalism in
Europe to the present and future orientated Protestant work
ethic and the relative backwardness of Catholic centered
Europe to the past orientation of Catholic doctrines.
Our emotional orientation influences our pace of life, belief
systems, aspirations and propensity for action.
Geshe Tashi Tsering postulated that every feeling whether good
or bad, powerful or light should be paid attention to through
mindfulness that can
be used as a force to protect the psych.
This has two important implications. The first is to be aware of
our own biases and distortive tendencies in our perception of
objects. The second implication is that we protect ourselves
from harmful influences and ‘emotionally’ learn. Emotions
dominate our deep intrinsic abilities like attention, alertness,
interpersonal abilities, creativity, propensity for action, and
strategic outlook, etc., shape our view of the world, and
influences our intentions, and actions. This approach in
explaining behavior is probably better than previous schools of
For example, people through history like Gandhi, Churchill,
Stalin, and Hitler were dominated by their emotions of concern,
compassion, destiny, legacy, ruthlessness, revenge,
Machiavellianism, hate, fear, and insecurity respectively.
Emotions greatly influence peoples’ sense of self efficacy which
infers that thinking is heavily influenced by life experience,
time and place, and the levels of awareness they are attuned to.
Notes and References
 Quirin, M., Kazen, M.,
& Kuhl, J., (2009), “When Nonsense Sounds Happy or Helpless: The
Implicit Positive and Negative Affect test (IPANAT),” Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology 97(3): 500-516.
 Fenton-O’Creevy, M.,
Soane, E., Nicholson, N., & William, P. (2011), “Thinking,
Feeling and Deciding: The Influence of Emotions on the Decision
Making and Performance of Traders,” Journal of Organization
Behavior 32(8): 1044-1061.
 Chodorow, N. (1999),
The Power of Feeling: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis,
Gender, and Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
 Hunter, M., (2012),
Opportunity, Strategy, & Entrepreneurship: A meta-Theory, Vol. 1,
New York, Nova Scientific Publishers, P. 250.
Root-Bernstein, R. S., & Root-Bernstein, M. M., (2001).
Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s
Most Creative People. Boston, Houghton Mifflin.
 Many people mistake
their aspirations for opportunity. For example people put their
money and effort into a boutique, restaurant, or spa for the
wrong reasons because they like fashion, shopping, food and
cooking, or aromatherapy and massage, only to close down a few
months later because there was no real opportunity.
 However a future
orientation in imagination may be the actual position that a
science fiction writer may cherish.
 Domicile outlook can be
defined as the beliefs, attitudes and views one develops from
the position they live and social status. The concept brings
together factors like social status, income, location, state of
employment and immigrant status. Together these factors
contribute to a person’s basic beliefs, attitudes and outlook
towards opportunity and their potential to exploit it.
 Zimbardo, 7; Boyd, J.
(2009), The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time that
Will Change your Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
 Andreski, S. (ed.)
(1983), Max Weber on Capitalism, Bureaucracy, and Religion.
London: Allen & Unwin.
 Mindfulness is a
state of open acceptance of one’s own perceptions and
sensibilities that helps our experience of being calm, relaxed
and alert state of mind and be aware of our thoughts without
identifying with them Ladner, L. (2005), “Bringing Mindfulness
to Your Practice,” Psychology Networker July/August: 19.
 Tashi Tsering, Geshe
(2006), Buddhist Psychology: The Foundation of Buddhist
Thought, Vol. 3. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 46.
 Different schools of
thought have tried to answer questions like “why do some
people see opportunities and other people don’t?’ These have
included personality traits, propensity to take risk,
entrepreneurial intentions, behavioural and cognitive